Making sense of the post-pandemic role of regional aircraft

The difference between in the air or on the ground is a matter of latitude and longitude.

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Release Date
July 22, 2021
Making sense of the post-pandemic role of regional aircraft
  • Understanding the nuances of regional aircraft — turboprops and regional jets — is first and foremost a matter of understanding the role of geography in their success.
  • India and China, the fastest growing domestic markets on the planet, have taken wildly divergent paths for regional operations.
  • Regional aircraft capacity, as a fleet, is outpacing both the narrowbody and widebody recovery globally with surprising strength in Asia and Africa.

Commercial aviation is dominated by large aircraft. Over 75% of the world’s passenger fleet is characterized as narrowbody or widebody, carrying over 130 passengers each time it takes off. Persistent international travel restrictions have kept travel close to home and passengers flying for leisure and with that, an oversimplified trend of the market has emerged  – the smaller the aircraft the better.

Yet, regional aircraft have fared in radically different ways compared to their large aircraft counterparts. Depending on geography, business model, and fleet type, some regional aircraft have actually fared worse than narrowbody aircraft, bucking the trend of an industry preference for small aircraft to match reduced overall demand.

Related: U.S. regional airlines will play crucial role for big carriers after coronavirus

Smaller though the regional industry may be, just 25% of the world’s fleet, it also represents the foundation of the networks on which global connectivity relies. For airlines, investors, and lessors able to corral the complexities of the regional aviation industry and understand the fundamentals underpinning profitability, there’s been value to be found.

It is precisely these complexities and nuances of this smaller regional aviation industry on which we explore in this latest TAC Analysis. With wide differences categorized by geography, business model, and fleet type, we begin with a focus on the geographical demographics of the regional fleet, and how recovery profiles have differed based on where on the planet those aircraft are flying.

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