Airlines could be faced with paying higher prices for MRO services if original equipment manufacturers gain more influence and a less competitive maintenance sector is allowed to develop.

Speaking at the recent MRO Europe 2011 conference, Turkish Technic's vice-president of commerce, Fuat Oktay, argued that if the balance shifts further to the OEMs, this will have an impact on the ability of third-party MRO providers to develop their capabilities, particularly for the more complex, new-generation aircraft.

This would lead to a less competitive MRO industry in the long term, which would in turn result in higher prices and lower bargaining power for airlines and suppliers.

However, Frederic Mazel, director of Airbus's A330/A340 Flight Hour Services programme, disagreed. He said that greater OEM aftermarket involvement would not automatically lead to higher costs.

A manufacturer's support can even lead to higher aircraft residual values, he added, pointing out that leasing companies had welcomed its maintenance programmes for this reason.

Independent MRO providers are also facing tougher times as both OEMs and large, airline-affiliated MRO groups fight for market share said Peter de Swert, executive vice-president of KLM Engineering & Maintenance.

While it was possible in the past to focus on an existing service portfolio or become an expert in niche capabilities, this is no longer sufficient today, he added.

"Personally, I think the MRO industry is out of balance," said de Swert, adding that the sector is "rapidly changing" after a period of relative stability. One solution could be airline-style alliances between MRO providers, he added.

Source: Flight International