The fact that aviation is at a near stand-still due to COVID-19 is obvious, but to what extent? Aviation data analyst Cirium shows in their, April 6th 2020, report that the number of aircraft grounded now exceeds the number of aircraft flying.

Compared to the last report published on the 3rd of April, 900 more aircraft have entered storage; with more being pulled from airline fleets each day. This means that today, April 6th 2020, over 14,500 commercial aircraft are now grounded, including the already grounded Boeing 737 MAX, leaving only 12,635 in service around the world.

Cirium reports that 59 percent of Airbus aircraft are in storage, whereas Boeing stands at 55 percent; which includes the 383 grounded 737 MAX aircraft from before the COVID-19 influence.

More Aircraft Are Now Grounded Than In Service
Grounded Boeing 737 MAX aircraft (Alan Wilson – Flickr)

When it comes to widebody aircraft, such as the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787, utilisation is down a significant amount due to travel restrictions, consequently leading to increased discomfort with the idea of travelling.

Despite this, some international travel still exists. This is due to the repatriation flights being operated on behalf of governments around the world.

If you would like to read more about some of the unusual flights being operated, see this article from one of our editors:- Catarina Madureira.

For the Airbus A350 Family, only 704 flight hours and 102 cycles were recorded on Friday 3rd of April across 68 active aircraft. Cirium reports this as a decline of 34 and 35 percent respectively, compared to Friday the 27th of March.

Extend the period being assessed, to a year between the 3rd of April 2020 and the 5th of April 2019, and a tremendous drop of 80 percent is recorded, with a 71 percent decrease in operating aircraft.

More Aircraft Are Now Grounded Than In Service
Qatar Airways Airbus A350 (Markus Eigenheer – Flickr)

Meanwhile, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner trio logged 1,482 flight hours and 287 cycles on the 3rd of April across 163 aircraft. This represents a respective decline of 39 and 31 percent, compared to the 27th of March.

Again, comparing this over the period of a year we see another drastic decline; this time with hours being down 84 percent and cycles down 80 percent, with 76 percent fewer aircraft.

Some Flights Are Returning

In what appears to be a counter-productive move, some airlines are actually beginning to add capacity; as restrictions in some areas around the world are adjusted.

One thing to note is that these flights aren’t necessarily permanent, but are only for select time periods; to provide people with the option to return home, IF they can work around potential boarder blocks that are in place in some countries.

Emirates have filed a limited schedule for their passenger operation, for the period from 6th April 2020 to 19th April 2020. The airline will initially offer 5 European routes on board the Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

Due to the current condition, the airline will only operate passenger flights on outbound; as they do not have traffic rights from Europe to Dubai. The flights will return carrying only cargo. These flights are to repatriate stranded European citizens in Dubai to their home country.

Qatar Airways, however, has announced a capacity increase to select destinations, as they’ve recorded moderate to high load factors. As of March 24th 2020, approximately 100,000 seats were added to their network.

For a facinating compilation of grounded aircraft photographs, from talented photographers around the world, see this article published by Sam Chui:


Data source: Cirium – 6th April 2020

Cover photo sourced from PXFUEL.

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