Bringing back long-haul capacity with narrowbody aircraft

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By Vincent Valery


May 11, 2020, © Leeham News: The timeline for a passenger traffic recovery is highly uncertain. Major OEMs and some airlines expect a return to 2019 passenger traffic levels in two years at the earliest.

Southwest Airlines doesn’t see traffic returning to 2019 for five years. IAG, parent of British Airways and several other airlines, predicts a three year recovery.

Leeham Co. predicts that it will take four to eight years before traffic returns to pre-COVID-19 levels.


Airbus A321XLR. Source: Airbus.

However, the recovery sequence for the various markets is becoming clearer. Governments will progressively lift travel restrictions on domestic markets, followed by regional international. Long-haul international will probably be the last to return to normal.

Airlines in China started ramping up domestic capacity, though the government mandates some of this. The governments of Australia and New Zealand disclosed discussions to lift trans-Tasman travel restrictions. French President Emmanuel Macron made it clear that travel would be first allowed within the European Union before outside the old continent.

People who need to travel for business reasons will be allowed first, including for long-haul travel. That means airlines that wish to restore long-haul capacity will have to do so with a much-reduced demand. With this in mind, it might make sense to restore long-haul flights with latest generation narrowbody aircraft such as the Airbus A321(X)LR and Boeing 737 MAX.

LNA analyzes pre-COVID-19 long-haul route patterns to determine what fraction narrowbody aircraft can cover as passenger traffic recovers.

  • Long-haul markets split in two;
  • Missed New Mid-Range Aircraft launch opportunity;
  • A large addressable market for the A321XLR;
  • A321LR and 737MAX long-haul route coverage.

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Bjorn’s Corner: Can I get COVID-19 in airline cabins? Part 1.

May 8, 2020, ©. Leeham News: In our Corner series, we now dig into this important subject: Is my probability of getting infected with the COVID-19 virus higher in an airliner cabin than in other places?

We look at simulations of how the virus travels when we breathe/cough and how the virus load propagates in an airliner cabin. Then we talk about infection probabilities compared with other environments.

Figure 1.

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Better to bring capacity back with a 777X or 777-300ER? Part 2

By Bjorn Fehrm

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May 7, 2020, © Leeham News: With the Covid-19 pandemic depressing passenger traffic for years to come, we started an analysis last week on the options the airlines have who wait for their Boeing 777-9. Hold on to their 777-300ER or upgrade to the newer and more efficient 777-9?

We deepen the analysis this week by comparing the economics of a 10 years old 777-300ER versus a new 777-9.

Figure 1. The 777X has 30% larger windows than standard in the class. Source: Boeing.

  • The 777X is best seen as a cross between a Boeing 787 and a 777-300ER. It inherits the passenger comfort features the 787 brought to the market like lower cabin altitude, higher cabin humidity, larger windows, and a smoother ride.
  • If a 777-9, with it’s higher capital costs, can compete on operating cost with a used 777-300ER depends on the fuel price.

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Supply chain focus: Safran’ s first 2020 quarter

By Bjorn Fehrm

May 5, 2020, ©. Leeham News: Next out in our COVID19 supply chain focus is Safran Group.

Safran, together with GE Aviation, is the largest supplier of turbofan engines to the World’s airliners. Their success in the CFM joint venture is unprecedented. The first joint engine, the CFM56 has passed 30,000 deliveries, and the follow-up, the CFM LEAP, has 16,000 orders.

At the back of this successful business, Safran has expanded to a major aeronautical supplier for propulsion, systems, and cabins.

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Pontifications: Ugly, fundamental changes coming for airline industry

By Scott Hamilton

May 4, 2020, © Leeham News: The global airline industry is on the cusp of a fundamental restructuring that will be painful, and painfully long.

A few airlines already ceased operations.

Several others are on the brink of filing for bankruptcy—among them Lufthansa and Virgin Atlantic, brand names that aren’t normally at the top of an endangered list.

A shake-out in Europe was already underway before the COVID-19 crisis erupted. The inevitable shake-out in Asia hadn’t yet begun.

Fleet rationalization among legacy carriers will occur at rapid-fire speed. And some carriers now have the opportunity to shed unprofitable routes that were maintained for market share.

It’s going to be an ugly process, though.

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Boeing announces voluntary layoffs in Puget Sound

By Bryan Corliss

April 28, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing on Monday formally announced it would offer voluntary layoffs – essentially contract buyouts – to members of its Puget Sound workforce.

For most workers, the offer would give them one week’s pay for each year of service, up to a maximum of 26 weeks. Boeing would also continue paying health insurance benefits for most of the laid-off workers for three months. (The exception to this: Machinists Union members will get six months of extended health benefits under the terms of an agreement negotiated in 2016.)

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HOTR: Product development another victim of virus crisis

By the Leeham News staff

April 28, 2020, © Leeham News: The Coronavirus not only decimates the airline industry.

It’s going to completely upend the product strategies of Airbus, Boeing and Embraer.

Boeing is most immediately affected.

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Pontifications: What shape and how long will recovery take?

By Scott Hamilton

April 20, 2020, © Leeham News: There just is little good news for the aerospace industry right now.

Airbus announced it will reduce production by a third across the A-Series airliners. I don’t think this will be the last cut.

Boeing last week said it will resume production in the Seattle area of its wide-body airplanes. It’s also now preparing to restart production of the 737 MAX, clearly a piece of good news. Defense-related production for the P-8 Poseidon and the KC-46A tanker resumed last week.

But Boeing hasn’t laid out its production plans for the 7-Series airplanes. This undoubtedly will come next week. Monday is the shareholders’ annual meeting. This will be held virtually at 9am CDT. Access is via the Boeing website. The first quarterly earnings call will be held two days later, also accessible via the web. Either meeting may outline the production plans for the rest of the year.

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Can a passenger airliner run as a freighter with today’s tariffs? Part 3.

By Bjorn Fehrm

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April 16, 2020, © Leeham News: In last week’s article we saw the present high air freight prices can support a belly-cargo operation with a passenger airliner when flying the hot routes from Asia to North American and Europe.

But the aircraft shall fly the return route as well, with as much belly cargo as possible. And last week’s freight prices are volatile. We dig deeper this week and look at the total equation with return flights, different levels of load factors, and price variations.

At what level is an operational belly freighter better than a grounded passenger jet?

Figure 1. American Airlines is increasing its belly cargo operation step by step since the launch on March 20. Source: American Airlines.

  • Last week we saw the belly cargo operation with passenger aircraft make sense in today’s market if we fly the prime routes, Asia to North America or Europe.
  • When one includes the return trips the case is less clear cut. But it’s still sensible as long as aircraft and crews are sitting idle and can’t be used for other purposes.

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Pontifications: Airlines, OEMs step up in virus crisis

By Scott Hamilton

April 13, 2020, © Leeham News: There are plenty of stories and photos floating around the Internet about airlines flying empty or nearly so.

Schedules have been pared back up to 95% across the globe.

Spot-check Flightradar24 at any given moment and there are a lot air freighters flying.

But the passenger airlines are also flying some airliners dedicated to cargo. Some are flying cargo in the below-deck holds only. Others installed plastic protection over the passenger seats and loaded box after box after box of protective masks for shipment. Still others removed the passenger seats entirely and loaded the main deck with lighter-weight cargo.

This article summarizes many airlines that stepped up to fly supplies throughout the world.

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