Aircraft lease

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Aircraft leases are leases used by airlines and other aircraft operators. Airlines lease aircraft from other airlines or leasing companies for two main reasons: to operate aircraft without the financial burden of buying them, and to provide temporary increase in capacity. The industry has two main leasing types: wet-leasing, which is normally used for short-term leasing, and dry-leasing which is more normal for longer-term leases. The industry also uses combinations of wet and dry. For example, when the aircraft is wet-leased to establish new services, then as the airline's flight or cabin crews become trained, they can be switched to a dry lease.

50% of global lessor set are based in Ireland and in 2015 over $120b of new commercial aircraft was delivered worldwide.[1] Operating leases of jet airliner accounted for less than 2% of the fleet in 1976, then 15% in the early 1990s, 25% in 2000 and 40% in 2017, with lessors involved in 62% of second hand mid-life aircraft transactions since 2000: 42% in Europe and 29% in North America.[2]

Having an aggressive growth mandate, more aggressive, smaller entrants, have overpaid for many of their assets in the sale and leaseback market then undercharged on lease rates in order to win the campaigns, with lower maintenance reserves and return conditions : lease-rate factors have fallen to 0.6% per month (7.2% per year), even reaching 0.55% (6.6% per year).[3]

Wet lease[edit]

A wet lease is a leasing arrangement whereby one airline (the lessor) provides an aircraft, complete crew, maintenance, and insurance (ACMI) to another airline or other type of business acting as a broker of air travel (the lessee), which pays by hours operated. The lessee provides fuel and covers airport fees, and any other duties, taxes, etc. The flight uses the flight number of the lessee. A wet lease generally lasts 1–24 months; a shorter duration would be considered an ad hoc charter. A wet lease is typically utilized during peak traffic seasons or annual heavy maintenance checks, or to initiate new routes.[4] A wet-leased aircraft may be used to fly services into countries where the lessee is banned from operating.[5]

They can also be considered a form of charter whereby the lessor provides minimum operating services, including ACMI, and the lessee provides the balance of services along with flight numbers. In all other forms of charter, the lessor provides the flight numbers. Variations of a wet lease include a code share arrangement and a block seat agreement.

Wet leases are occasionally used for political reasons. For instance, EgyptAir, an Egyptian government enterprise, cannot fly to Israel under its own name, as a matter of Egyptian government policy. Therefore, Egyptian flights from Cairo to Tel Aviv are operated by Air Sinai, which wet-leases from EgyptAir to get around the political issue.[6]

In the United Kingdom, a wet lease is when an aircraft is operated under the air operator's certificate (AOC) of the lessor.[7]

Damp lease[edit]

An arrangement where the lessor provides the aircraft, flight crew and maintenance but the lessee provides the cabin crew is sometimes referred to as a "damp lease", a term especially used in the UK. It is also occasionally referred to as a "moist lease".[4]

Dry lease[edit]

A dry lease is a leasing arrangement whereby an aircraft financing entity (lessor), such as GECAS or AerCap, provides an aircraft without crew, ground staff etc. Dry lease is typically used by leasing companies and banks, requiring the lessee to put the aircraft on its own AOC and provide aircraft registration. A typical dry lease lasts upwards of two years and bears certain conditions with respect to depreciation, maintenance, insurances, etc., depending also on the geographical location, political circumstances, etc.

A dry-lease arrangement can also be made between a major airline and a regional airline, in which the major airline provides the aircraft and the regional operator provides flight crews, maintenance and other operational aspects of the aircraft, which then may be operated under the major airline's name or some similar name. A dry lease saves the major airline the expense of training personnel to fly and maintain the aircraft, along with other considerations (such as staggered union contracts, regional airport staffing, etc.). FedEx Express uses an arrangement of this type for its feeder operations, contracting to companies such as Empire Airlines, Mountain Air Cargo, Swiftair, and others to operate its single and twin-engined turbo-prop "feeder" aircraft in the USA. DHL has a joint venture in the United States with Polar Air Cargo, a subsidiary of Atlas Air, to operate their domestic deliveries.

In the United Kingdom, a dry lease is when an aircraft is operated under the AOC of the lessee.[7]

At the end of July 2015, the top 50 aircraft lessors managed 8,184 aircraft : 511 turboprop regional airliners, 792 regional jets, 5,612 narrowbody and 1,253 widebody airliners.[8] In 2017, the 150 lessors are managing 8,400 aircraft worth $256 billion with 2,321 aircraft on backlog from 28 of them, their penetration having stabilised at 42.6%.[9]

2017 Top 20 operating lessors by Fleet & Backlog,[9] number of aircraft in 2015[8]
Rank Operating Lessor Fleet Backlog Value
1 AerCap 1,153 339 33,994 9 1,279 - 4 970 305
2 GECAS 931 304 22,358 1 1,608 31 374 1,035 168
3 Air Lease Corporation 271 357 13,120 9 251 18 27 162 44
4 SMBC Aviation Capital (ex RBS) 445 200 13,796 6 393 - 7 378 8
5 BOC Aviation 285 176 12,653 10 256 - 16 204 36
6 Avolon 546 257 19,167 17 166 - 6 140 20
7 BBAM (incl NBB & FLY Leasing) 390 15,284 3 413 - 2 357 54
8 Aviation Capital Group 250 132 5,397 4 273 - - 264 9
9 ICBC Leasing Co 277 45 12,488 16 173 - 13 131 29
10 AWAS 231 15 5,844 7 295 - - 242 53
11 Macquarie AirFinance 202 40 4,726 13 176 - 4 160 12
12 CDB Aviation Lease Finance 151 49 5,569 26 120 - 20 68 32
13 Aircastle Limited 192 4,938 14 141 - 5 77 59
14 ALAFCO 60 124 2,750 12 49 - - 46 3
15 Boeing Capital Corp 174 1,369 11
16 China Aircraft Leasing Limited 90 138 4,278 63 47 - - 43 4
17 ORIX Aviation 167 3,991 15 148 - 2 132 14
18 Standard Chartered Aviation 120 10 4,077 18
19 Jackson Square Aviation 117 4,681 25 110 - - 97 13
20 BoCom Leasing 114 4,328 81 49 - - 38 11

Commercial aircraft sales and leasing[edit]

Commercial aircraft sales and leasing (CASL) is the business of marketing used commercial airliners and related equipment. Companies engaged in CASL are often referred to as aircraft lessors.

Newly started airlines are usually not in a financial position to afford factory direct aircraft and established carriers who prefer to maintain flexibility by leasing rather than owning their aircraft, will typically work with a CASL company to locate and procure used aircraft for lease or finance. The aircraft may be provided to the airline on the basis of an operating lease or a finance lease.

A number of commercial banks, hedge funds and financial institutions are active in the aircraft leasing business.


  1. ^ "Ireland to play important role as aviation leasing sector faces challenging year". Retrieved 2016-02-18. 
  2. ^ "Mid-life aircraft trading patterns and the impact of lessors". Flightglobal. 7 March 2017. 
  3. ^ jamie Bullen (1 Sep 2017). "Undisciplined lessors create a race to the bottom". Flightglobal. 
  4. ^ a b Aircraft Leasing: ACMI, Dry / Wet Lease Definition
  5. ^ EU Ban list Archived 2011-04-30 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Yoav Zitun (2011-03-23). "Egypt Air removes Israel from map". Ynetnews. Retrieved 2014-01-28. 
  7. ^ a b UK Civil Aviation Authority – Aircraft Leasing
  8. ^ a b "The Leasing Top 50 2015" (PDF). AirFinance Journal. 1 November 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "Commercial operating leasing market dynamic". V1ewpoint (55). Flight Ascend Consultancy. Spring 2017. pp. 4–7. 

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