An accelerating widebody fleet streamlining, Part 1

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By Vincent Valery


June 1, 2020, © Leeham News: As airlines slashed capacity in the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, some took the opportunity to accelerate aircraft retirements.

Older generation twin-aisle aircraft, notably the Airbus A340, older A330s, Boeing 747 and 767, have exited numerous carrier’s fleet early. Several Airbus A380 operators put their Superjumbos in long-term storage, wondering whether these will ever fly in passenger service again.

Major crises tend to accelerate existing trends. The move away from large twin-aisle aircraft is a case in point. In the context of subdued demand for several years, airlines will be under pressure to reduce expenses. Streamlining fleets is an obvious target.

The Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families dominated the single-aisle market for decades. The picture has historically been far more fragmented for twin-aisle aircraft. Airbus and Boeing still have three widebody aircraft families apiece with significant numbers of passenger aircraft in service.

LNA analyzes in two-part articles why the picture will likely change for the widebody market in the 2020s. In the first part, we will take a historical detour to analyze why twin-aisle fleets are still so fragmented nowadays.

  • Range going hand in hand with aircraft size;
  • Change in the 1990s;
  • Superjumbo gamble backfires;
  • Full widebody fleet streamlining becomes a reality.

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