Aircraft purchases are long-term investments that require strategic thinking and planning. The introduction of new-generation widebody aircrafts is showing improvements in operating costs and efficiency. For instance, widebody fuel savings can account for more than 130 million gallons per year. However, these aircraft have other impacts to consider. In the future, airlines must be thoughtful in planning their capital expenditures, and take a holistic view of all the impacts of an aircraft order before making new commitments.

Technical comparison of older and new-generation widebodies

The introduction of new-generation widebody aircrafts is an improvement over old generation widebody aircrafts. New generation widebody aircrafts are superior in mtow, max range, max thrust and single class seats.

Widebody aircrafts deliver

Widebodies go beyond increasing ROI; they allow airlines to open a greater range of new, long-haul, non-stop markets to serve customers. This trend began with Boeing and the 787 in 2004, and Airbus with its A350 in 2005. After working through some early developmental issues and modifications to original designs, these new-generation aircraft entered service in 2011 and 2015, respectively.

Airframe manufacturers were developing the use of the new composite materials designed to take weight out of the aircraft, while engine manufacturers were successful developing higher thrust, more efficient engines.

Putting this into perspective, flying a 7,000-nautical mile mission once required operating an aircraft that has a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 910,000 pounds. Today, airlines have the choice to operate an aircraft as light as 560,000 pounds, a close to 40 percent reduction. This improved efficiency has corresponding economic benefits in terms of fuel burn, and other weight or engine thrust-related costs, such as significantly lower maintenance expense.

A secondary benefit of these new-generation widebodies is they allow airlines the ability to open a greater range of new, long-haul, non-stop markets to serve customers.

What it all means—Invest wisely

Given the benefits of widebody aircraft, along with impact on supply and demand, airlines need to take a holistic approach on all decisions to spend capital. Seabury Consulting, now part of Accenture suggests five ways airlines can strategically embark upon fleet investment decisions:

  1. Study long-term market dynamics
  2. Undertake long-term network planning
  3. Optimize fleet decisions
  4. Manage capital commitments
  5. Consider digital platform implications

With all the change happening in the industry, it’s important to consider all options when investing in a new fleet. Airlines that already have their new aircraft orders in place will need to dynamically and proactively manage their fleet commitments given the likely disruptor effect of this new generation of equipment when placed into service. With careful planning, airlines will benefit from the positive disruption of new-generation aircraft, while balancing supply and demand for the industry.

John E. Luth

Chairman & CEO, Seabury Consulting, now part of Accenture

David Spurlock

Managing Director

David Walfisch

Principal Director

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