The world's low cost airline widebody aircraft fleet – a growing niche
WIDEBODIES ARE A SMALL proportion of the global LCC fleet, but orders are high relative to the number in service with LCCs, particularly in Southeast Asia and Western Europe (already the two leading regions for LCC widebodies in service).
Of the 22 LCCs operating widebodies, 17 are in Asia Pacific or Europe. The world’s biggest LCC widebody fleet is currently operated by Norwegian, followed by Air Canada rouge, a rare North American long haul low cost operator, and AirAsia X, which is one of only six LCCs that operate widebodies exclusively.
A330 variants are the most popular widebodies in service and on order with LCCs, followed by 787 variants.
This report presents a detailed analysis of data on the LCC widebody fleet and aircraft orders from the CAPA Fleet Database.
- Southeast Asia is the world’s leading region for widebody LCC operation, followed by Western Europe and North America;
- There are 22 low cost carriers (LCCs) operating 175 widebody aircraft, led by Norwegian, Air Canada rouge and AirAsia X. Only six are widebody-only airlines;
- A330 variants are the most popular widebody in service and on order with LCCs, followed by Boeing 787 variants;
- Widebodies are a small proportion of the total LCC fleet, but orders are high relative to LCC widebodies in service, particularly in Southeast Asia and Western Europe.
Southeast Asia is the world’s leading region for widebody LCC operation
According to the CAPA Fleet Database, there are 175 widebody aircraft in service with low cost airlines as at 06-Apr-2018. This compares with 136 at the end of 2016 and 115 at the end of 2015, so there has been a 52% increase in just over two years.
The largest widebody LCC fleet is to be found in Southeast Asia, which accounts for 64 aircraft, followed by Western Europe (40) and North America (29). Asia Pacific overall has 88 LCC widebodies, almost half of the global total, and Europe has 48.
Widebodies operated by twenty two LCCs, led by Norwegian, Air Canada rouge and AirAsia X
According to the CAPA Fleet Database, there are 22 low cost airlines operating 175 widebody aircraft as at 06-Apr-2018.
The database reveals the biggest LCC operator of widebodies to be Norwegian, with 27 Boeing 787s (eight 787-8s and 19 787-9s; including Norwegian Air Shuttle, Norwegian Air International and Norwegian Air UK).
Second is Air Canada rouge (the low cost subsidiary of the largest Canadian airline), which has 25 767-300ERs. Ranked third is AirAsia X, the long haul brand of the AirAsia Group, which has 22 A330-300Es).
The only other LCCs with double digit widebody numbers are Scoot (ten 787-8s and six 787-9s) and Jetstar (eleven 787-8s).
Only six LCCs have all-widebody fleets
Only six of the 22 airlines are 100% widebody operators. Three of these are AirAsia X and its affiliates Thai AirAsia X and Indonesia AirAsia X, which all operate A330-300 variants.
The other three widebody-only LCCs are Bangkok-based NokScoot, which operates four 777-200ERs, Cairo-based Air Leisure, which operates two A330-200s; and the Paris Orly-based French Blue, a subsidiary of Groupe Dubreuil, which has one A330-300E and two A350-900s.
After these six, there are three airlines where widebodies form more than one third of the fleet: Air Canada rouge, Scoot and Onur Air.
At Air Canada rouge, widebodies are half of the total fleet (in addition to its 25 767s, it also operates 25 A320 family aircraft).
Widebodies are 38% of Scoot’s fleet (alongside its 787s, it also operates 26 Airbus A320 family aircraft) and 36% of the fleet for Turkish LCC Onur Air (it operates 14 A320 family aircraft, in addition to eight A330s).
For each of the remaining 10 LCCs, widebodies account for less than 20% of the total fleet.
WIDEBODY AIRCRAFT NUMBERS IN SERVICE WITH LCCs, BY REGION*
WIDEBODY AIRCRAFT NUMBERS IN SERVICE WITH LCCs, BY AIRLINE*
WIDEBODY AIRCRAFT VARIANTS OPERATED BY LCCs*
PROPORTION OF WIDEBODIES IN GLOBAL FLEET*
WIDEBODY AIRCRAFT ORDER NUMBERS BY LCCs*
The A330 is the most popular widebody in service with LCC operators
Perhaps not surprisingly all of the widebody aircraft in service with LCCs are twin engine jets, as at 06-Apr-2018, rather than the higher fuel burn four engine types.
The model most commonly operated by LCCs is the A330, variants of which account for 81, or nearly half, of the 167 widebodies in service with low cost airlines. Of these, 45 are the A330-300E, 30 are the A330-200, and six are the A330-300X.
The second most common model is the 787, of which there are 54 in service with LCCs. Of these, 29 are the 787-8 and 25 are the 787-9. There are 30 767s (29 767-300ERs and one 767-200ER), eight 777-200ERs and two A350-900s in service with LCCs.
Widebodies make up only a small proportion of the total LCC fleet
Widebodies continue to make up a very low proportion of the total LCC fleet. The 175 widebodies account for just 3% of LCC aircraft in service globally.
However, among the 22 LCCs that operate widebodies, the type accounts for 16% of their combined fleet, which is not far from the widebodies’ 18% share of all global commercial aircraft.
AirAsia X has the highest number of widebody orders among LCCs, followed by Norwegian
The CAPA Fleet Database records 141 LCC widebody aircraft orders by eight LCCs as at 06-Apr-2018.
AirAsia X leads LCC widebody orders, with 76 aircraft in the pipeline, of which 66 are A330-900neos and 10 are A350-900s. AirAsia has more than double the widebody order numbers of Norwegian, which has 35, all for 787-9s.
WestJet has 10 787-9 orders, while the remaining five LCCs with widebody orders have five or fewer on order.
The A330 accounts for the most widebody orders by LCCs
The A330’s popularity in current LCC fleets is also reflected in the number of orders for the model by low cost airlines. It accounts for 80, or 57%, of the 141 LCC widebody orders, led by the re-engined A330-900neo, which has 75 orders.
As with aircraft in service, the 787 is the second most popular choice of widebody order by LCCs, which have 49 on order. These are all 787-9s, reflecting LCCs’ preference for the larger variants lower cost per seat.
The remaining 12 LCC widebody orders are for the A350-900.
LCCs are focusing on widebody expansion relatively faster than non-LCCs
The trend is for LCCs to expand their widebody capability relatively faster than other airlines. Although widebodies are a small proportion of the LCC fleet in service, low cost operators are more enthusiastic than other airlines about ordering more, relative to the installed base.
Among all airlines globally, widebody order numbers are equivalent to 44% of widebodies currently in service. Among all LCCs, widebody orders are 81% of widebodies in service.
Widebody orders by LCCs are particularly high in Southeast Asia (80 aircraft), where they represent 125% of the numbers in service, and Western Europe (39), where they are 98% of aircraft in service.
In Upper South America and Northeast Asia, long haul aircraft orders are also more than 50% of aircraft in service with LCCs. North America’s orders are relatively low.
Among the eight LCCs that currently have outstanding widebody orders, the type represents 160% of aircraft in service.
In the case of AirAsia X, its widebody orders are 345% of its current widebody fleet, and orders also represent 100% or more of aircraft in service for Lucky Air (300%), WestJet (250%), WOW air (133%) and Norwegian (130%).
WIDEBODY AIRCRAFT NUMBERS IN SERVICE AND ON ORDER WITH LCCs, BY REGION*
WIDEBODY LCC ORDERS BY AIRCRAFT VARIANT*
WIDEBODY ORDERS AS A PERCENTAGE OF WIDEBODIES IN SERVICE*
Widebody LCC operation is a niche, but it’s growing
This analysis of data from the CAPA Fleet Database demonstrates that widebodies still make up only a small proportion of the LCC fleet globally.
Nevertheless, the size of the LCC widebody order book is significant, relative to the fleet in service. This is especially so in Southeast Asia and, to a slightly lesser extent, in Western Europe.
This is further evidence that the long haul LCC model has found a niche that is growing (and that is before taking into account the growth of intercontinental narrowbody operations by LCCs).