top of page
  • Writer's pictureGary Crichlow

Status of the US Commercial Passenger Fleet (Narrow & Widebody)

 

AviationValues tracks 25,469 passenger widebody and narrowbody (defined as single aisle aircraft in the Embraer E190 / Airbus A220 size category and larger) aircraft globally. US operators account for 20% of that total.

 

Since 2019, the US operated fleet has grown by 14% in terms of number of aircraft. New technology aircraft such as the Boeing 737 MAX and 787 families, and the Airbus A220, A320neo, A330neo and A350 families represent an increasing share of the fleet. We’ve also tracked upward pressure on Market Values in recent months nearly across the board. As a consequence, the Market Value of the US fleet has increased by 16% relative to 2019.

 

The evolution year by year is outlined in the tables below. The US fleet’s growth was impacted first by the grounding of the 737 MAX and cessation of deliveries in 2019, and then by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The result was little growth by fleet count and a significant reduction in Market Value in 2020 and 2021; followed by a strong recovery more recently.


The fleet balance between new technology aircraft models and older technology types has also shifted in the past five years. New technology aircraft now account for a quarter of the US fleet, up from 5% in 2019.


Not surprisingly, the main beneficiaries of the recovery in the US market have been the new generation narrowbodies: the Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 9, the Airbus A220-300, A320neo and A321neo.



Further illustrating the shift away from older generation aircraft, the passenger aircraft types that have exited the US fleet in the greatest numbers are the Boeing 737-700, 757-200, MD-88, MD-90 and MD-83, all of which are no longer in production.




In addition to monitoring the size of the fleet, AviationValues also tracks each aircraft’s flight activity. A comparison of how both have evolved since 2019 illustrates the already blindingly obvious fact that there was a severe oversupply of aircraft relative to the demand for flight activity. However, by 2022 the situation had clearly recovered and in 2023 it was clear that there was now undersupply, a fact borne out by rising air fares, increasing passenger load factors, and upward pressure on Market Values.


For the first two months of 2024, the monthly average of flight activity has slackened; however, the 2024 dataset does not yet include the peak summer season or Thanksgiving travel. A lot can happen between now and the end of the year, but a projection of the 2022-2023 trajectory can serve as a reasonable upper bound on the possibility of the current undersupply of fleet continuing. A key theme for 2024 thus far has been tight supply in terms of available aircraft, as well serviceable engines, components, facilities and personnel to keep them flying. We recently explored this theme here, and we will continue to monitor developments over the coming months.



 As the manufacturer providing the largest number of new technology entrants into the US fleet, Boeing’s ability to deliver will strongly influence the supply-demand balance for US operators. Last November we looked at some of the challenges facing Boeing regarding the 737 MAX. Since then the pressure has dramatically intensified following the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 incident in January. Recent moves by United to source A321neos as MAX 10 delays continue, and American’s split narrowbody order, could indicate a degree of hedging one’s bets, trading some of the benefit of single fleet type commonality for a reduction in single supplier risk.


Our data and analytics can provide much needed insight as the situation evolves, so stay tuned for more updates.


Data as of March 2024


Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to provide general information and not to provide advice or guidance in relation to particular circumstances. Readers should not make decisions in reliance on any statement or opinion contained in this blog.


Want to know more about how our data can help you assess the market?




Comments


bottom of page