Foley: 2021 MRO Biz To Remain on Par with 2020

 - February 19, 2021, 12:32 PM

This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.

Aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) spending will remain dampened in 2021, remaining on par with 2020 at least through the first half of the year, industry analyst Brian Foley said. However, Foley, who heads his own industry consultancy, added the latter half of the year should see some improvement.

Business aviation MRO spending dropped roughly 15 to 25 percent in 2020, while the commercial sector experienced a 50 percent plunge, Foley estimated.

He pointed to a “tale of two aviation sectors” in 2020, where both private and commercial aviation suffered from the waves of cancellations and groundings but business aviation regained much more ground than the airlines. After the April-May timeframe in 2020, commercial flight activity remained off 60 to 70 percent from the previous year.

“Many of the planes parked were older and more maintenance-intensive, adding to the volume of MRO business. All of these factors conspired to further deflate commercial MRO opportunities,” Foley said.   

For business aviation MROs, however, “life has been far more forgiving” as private travelers continued flying. Summer leisure travel returned activity to within 20 percent of normal flight activity, he noted.

And, as airlines parked their aircraft, “many business jet owners took the opportunity to fly their aircraft to MRO facilities to have any scheduled or preventive maintenance done,” he said.

As activity remains flat going into 2021, most MROs that have adapted to the reduced activity will survive, he said. “However, the shops that are highly leveraged or with depleted financial reserves will be systematically culled in the coming quarters.”

However, Foley did offer some optimism: “There’s hope that the second half of 2021 will help both sectors claw back more lost ground, with business jet flight activity rising to well within 10 percent of normal and airlines improving to ‘just’ 25 to 50 percent off of normal levels.”