When we think of aircraft movements, we typically think of individual flights. However, aircraft often change ownership from region to region in fairly predictable ways. Historically, new aircraft entered the mature regions such as Europe and North America after which they were sold to the developing regions.
While this certainly holds true on the continent of Africa with that region’s airlines being a net importer of used aircraft, it is no longer the case in the rest of the world. Latin America, Asia Pacific, and especially the Middle East have become net exporters of used aircraft as they rely on a continuous supply of new aircraft and work to make room for the hundreds of new aircraft orders coming. Europe and North America have likewise become net importers of these same second-hand aircraft.
The shift in North America is particularly interesting as top-tier airlines such as Delta, American, United, and Southwest have become opportunistic in acquiring used aircraft made available by the large amount of orders in other regions. No longer is the ability to find value in “previously enjoyed” assets limited to airlines such as Allegiant, who have specialized and benefit greatly from their disciplined approach to aircraft acquisitions.
This isn’t to say North American carriers aren’t ordering new aircraft. Rather, it can be argued the opportunistic approach to finding aircraft based on strong economics is having a positive effect on the industry. While some regions seem to be in a race to buy new at any cost, this provides a further sign into the stability of the large airlines, particularly in Europe and the U.S.