At FKB (Baden Airpark, Germany) summer timetable is now active, and frequency for virtually all Ryanair routes is much higher. This is a common pattern in general for Ryanair and other airlines in Europe: People seem to fly much more in summer.

What does Ryanair do with unused airplanes in winter?

I am wondering if there is any connection to the young average age of Ryanair's fleet (4.6 years as of February 2013), now and possibly in the future. Perhaps Ryanair is selling airplanes in winter, and buying new ones shortly before summer season.

  • Ski routes? Winter sun destinations? – Gagravarr Apr 1 '13 at 12:13
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    @feklee This article maybe of relevance anna.aero/2012/07/04/… – Simon Apr 1 '13 at 12:28
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    I am not sure if this is a travel question? – uncovery Apr 1 '13 at 13:07
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    @uncovery I was hesitant posting that question, but then I saw other similar question such as the one about the longest take-off run of a commercial flight... – feklee Apr 1 '13 at 13:37
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    A lot of low cost and charter airlines tend to use winter periods for either a) depot level maintenance, which takes aircraft out of operation for weeks or longer, or b) wet lease, renting out aircraft complete with crew to other airlines in areas where they need more capacity. Remember when it's winter in Europe, it's summer vacation time in Australia, South America, etc.. I've in reverse flown an Australian registered aircraft from Amsterdam to Spain a few years back, the crew was on a 2 month assignment and loving every minute of it. – jwenting Apr 2 '13 at 6:54

In the winter of 2011 Ryanair grounded 80 of its fleet in the US State of Arizona. With fuel accounting for 40-50 % of costs, more airlines are flying significantly less in winter.

According to research carried out by anna.aero in the article entitled "Grounding planes in winter improves profitability: The new network planning reality explored among Europe’s airlines" in July 2012:

Airlines generally earn their profits in summer when demand, yields (and capacity constraints) are highest. In the past, when fuel was much cheaper, airline economics were dominated by fixed costs – aircraft ownership, salaries, and the perceived wisdom that aircraft should be kept flying even in winter, even if loads and yields were significantly lower, as this helped to reduce unit cost per Available Seat Kilometre (at least on paper).

Although flying less pushes up the unit cost of the flying that does take place, the idea is that unit revenues will go up by a higher percentage as there will be fewer empty seats during the off-peak period as reduced capacity should lead to higher average fares and better load factors.

It would appear that other airlines are following suit eg Easyjet, German Wings.

The full article including analysis:


  • I wonder whether it would make sense to fly airplanes to the southern hemisphere in winter and lease them to some airlines there. But, probably not: I guess weather and market are vastly different from Europe. – feklee Apr 1 '13 at 19:39
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    @feklee I'm quite surprised they flew them to Arizona, they should have loaned them to Virgin America. – Simon Apr 1 '13 at 20:11
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    With fuel costs coming back down, they may do less parking, but what I can't figure out is, why does a European airline park its planes almost halfway across the world? – Michael Hampton Jan 6 '16 at 4:21
  • @MichaelHampton: Probably a combination of the arid climate (which reduces corrosion and thus saves maintenance costs when the plane goes back into service), cheap land, and a more comfortable political/legal environment than closer locations with the appropriate climate. – hmakholm left over Monica Sep 17 '16 at 14:52

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