Consultancy IBA estimates that more than 2,000 narrowbody lease contracts will reach term in the next five years, bringing an unprecedented amount of 737s and A320s back onto the market.
In many cases, of course, leases will simply be renewed, but plenty of aircraft will also be returned to lessors, a process that entails a host of maintenance challenges for the lessee.
Chief among these is ensuring correct, up-to-date maintenance documentation that is acceptable to the lessor, a feat that IBA says it has “never” seen achieved.
“To solve this matter, lessees must retain tight control of any subcontracted component providers to minimise downtime, and consider replacing components earlier if access is easy. Forceful life limitations terms must be monitored carefully,” says IBA’s chief executive, Phil Seymour.
And with redelivery disputes costing, on average, $2m per aircraft, it’s vital to for lessees to start planning for aircraft returns at least two years ahead, warns IBA.
Although disputes are still common, IBA does note an improvement in communication between lessors and operators. Contract drafting is also generally better, with less frequent use of ambiguous terminology, such as requirements for aircraft to be returned in “good” or “clean” condition.
On the other hand, money has poured into the leasing sector, leading to the creation of a number of lessors whose inexperience could make disputes more likely.
Excess demand for maintenance slots during peak redelivery periods may also exacerbate tensions for those airlines not prudent enough to plan ahead.