Aircraft maintenance and delivery delays are one of the hot topics as this year’s IATA AGM, with the chief executives of three carriers tackling the issue on the event’s set-piece panel.
Unfortunately for airlines, the issues appear to be getting worse, and are in some cases prompting desperate measures to keep aircraft in the air.
“As recently as a few months ago we took delivery of some brand-new A321s for our domestic business and literally, within a few minutes of them landing, we were taking parts off those planes in order to keep some other ones operational,” says Air New Zealand chief executive Greg Foran.
“We keep a close watch on the number of parts we are robbing off a plane to go and put on another, and they are running about double what they were traditionally, and it’s across the entire supply chain,” he adds.
Air India chief executive Campbell Wilson also cites “an absence of new parts” for aircraft – a significant challenge for an airline that recently needed to source 30,000 spares to get 13 Boeing 787s back into the air. They had been grounded “for many years”, Wilson says, and were used as a source of spares “as a consequence of Air India not having the funds to pay for spare parts”.
Wilson says he is particularly unhappy with delays to the delivery of new aircraft, “because there is a market opportunity that is smacking us in the face and it is there for the taking, and to be sitting on assets and people that are undertapped [is] very frustrating”.
RwandAir chief executive Yvonne Makolo concurs that maintenance delays have become a “major issue”, saying they are felt particularly acutely by smaller carriers who do not have the fleet flexibility available to larger operators.
“Getting parts is becoming more and more difficult, our AOGs [aircraft on ground] are lasting longer, and even when you get the parts you get them at a premium as well, so the operating costs shoot up,” she states.
Speaking earlier in the day, IATA director general Willie Walsh called on manufacturers to address the issues.
“OEM suppliers have been far too slow in dealing with supply chain blockages that are both raising costs and limiting our ability to deploy aircraft,” Walsh says. “Airlines are beyond frustrated. A solution must be found.”