Airlines retire older aircraft

Forbes has reported airline retirement of aircraft due to the coronavirus pandemic could be small, such Lufthansa´s withdrawal of three A340-300s, the news source said.

The A340-300s at Air France may be retired under a plan to remove sub-fleets. It is not a large change: Air France´s four A340-300s were due to leave in the first quarter of 2021.

Forbes reported other aircraft were flying beyond their time. Virgin Atlantic should have retired its three A340-600s last year, but they were retained for this year to replace 787s grounded while awaiting a Rolls-Royce engine change.

KLM officially planned to retire its 747-400s in 2021, but was exploring a 2020 retirement before the coronavirus pandemic. The jumbos were retired in March, although a part-freight combi variant is temporarily flying again.British Airways ended last year with 32 747-400s and expected, pre-crisis, to end 2020 with 25.

Sister airline Iberia had 16 A340-600s at the end of last year, and planned to end this year with only 10. Lufthansa planned to retire all of its A340s and 747-400s by the middle of this decade, so the first tranche would have been retired in the near future anyway.

This downturn may offer marginal capacity airlines retained because economies were strong and aircraft were mostly or fully depreciated, making them “cheap” to fly since they had limited or no ownership cost.