The Indicator from Planet Money - It's Time To Fly

People are flying again. But so many airplanes are still parked in storage. Getting them in the air again isn't always so simple.

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Content Keywords: Daisy Vanek Smith desiccant think Airlines NPR Richard Evans
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kind of curiosity Sally. I wonder how long it's been since you've taken a trip since you pack your bags and gone to the airport and gotten on a plane. Actually. I have to admit it was not too long ago, but it was my first trip since the beginning of the band that I could get least a year or maybe more like this since there are a lot of us who are fantasizing about flights about doing something that used to be so totally normal the buildup in my house before this light was so big we were like counting down the days on my calendar airlines are betting there's a lot of pent-up demand in 2020. There were 60% fewer passengers than the year before and the industry lost about a hundred twenty billion dollars. I caught up Richard Evans. He's in aviation consultant the old stove top to travel up and speaking too painful to Die song. I'm desperate to go somewhere with old getting but not seeing friends and relatives.

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When I nice and sunny for Holiday boarding, that's one thing there's the Wanderlust that's another but they're also these other factors right we can get back sedated now and the government has said that if you've been vaccinated it's fine to travel so Airlines they are getting ready. They're changing their schedules. They're adding flights. They are doing everything they can do to get passengers back and they're also and I want to say hey, this is no small thing. They are making sure they have enough planes to keep up with demand which sounds important that your decision during the pandemic to put thousands and thousands of airplanes in storage to take them out of service. They were worried. They didn't know how long this is going to last Richard Evans that consultant told me that at the peak of the pandemic. They were almost 17,000 planes in storage that is about 8 times as many planes as are usually in storage. Most of them have been parked at the special storage facilities there in Spain there in Australia, there's some

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When's at Westward 400 planes are parked nose-to-nose? I would like to see that the rule of thumb is if you're going to put a plane and storage try to park it someplace that is hot and dry to pay to put them there and now there are people like you and me Millions more who are vaccinated and feeling comfortable with the idea of traveling and this means the airlines have to get most of those planes back online and quickly. The problem is it's not exactly a quick process. This is the indicator. I'm Sally herships inference, Daisy Vanek Smith in airplane out of storage and back online.

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Will you take me to play out of storage? The first thing you're going to do is give that plane a once-over and humid environment. I could tell you it's going to smell different when she ran operations at two major airlines to the president of regional carrier. And he says when a plane goes into storage workers are going to litter it's cabin with bags of desiccant think of those packets of silica that are in your seaweed snacks to capture moisture what the plans are doubt. It's time to make sure that nothing is damaged. Have you had any infestation of anything bugs rodents? You do not want Mauser bar family of nice chilling at your at your wires. Nobody wants a family of mice. There is a lot of prescribed maintenance and the storage facility is going to try to seal up everything including the engines to keep stuff out you will they don't want any birds nests growing in your plane's engine.

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Perspex DVR AC says the plane is not like parking a car. So you replace fluids drain fluids seal up all openings and and anything that can be hurt by you be especially your windows and stuff. You can a mask over and then your avionics are another thing because your avionics you're going to start pulling all your computers out where you can because they don't like heat avionics to the plains Electronics. So there's a lot of stuff to reverse and storing a big plane is not cheap you pay an induction fee of anywhere from twenty thousand to $30,000. Then you pay by the month anywhere from five thousand to $15,000 and it has been in storage long enough. You're going to pay for more maintenance and some of this composite hundreds of thousands of dollars all this gets to the calculus. The airline's went through when demand dropped they were trying really hard to conserve cash. One thing about flying the margins are really thin you got to start start.

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Meter in every airplane. It's just like a taxi. So it does have to fly a lot to make money. Yeah, and it has to be full which is like hearing your started to panic as covid spread some Airlines started flying more freight to bring in money. This is it's important to remember that storing a plane is not just about storing the actual plane storage also affect Staffing you no longer need pilots and flight Crews and maintenance technicians. So when you store one, you have to think about what will have to happen. When you bring that plane back online going to need that staff and a lot of them will require training before they're able to fly again. And you said your supply chain issues Airlines have relationships with lots of Parts suppliers. They are buying parts. Regularly. The carrier doesn't want those companies to go out of business while they're playing is in storage again, they're going to rely on those companies when they're playing their back in service. So an airline is often, can he continue to order parts? Even if a plantain

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Stockpile them the last year has also given Airlines in opportunity to assess what planes they want to keep flying going forward storage can lead to retirement of planes that were maybe two old airplanes that burned a lot of fuel in Airline lingo. They've decided to divest themselves of some planes and rationalize their fleets are looking at the numbers again, and they're trying to figure out what the airline needs planning and scheduling guys. They look are crystal ball tells us for months from now. We're going to need these aircraft baucom service either a whole Fleet or part of a fleet as if they were receiving deliveries of new aircraft not all at once getting a plane ready to go back into service can take anywhere from a few days to a month if it's been in storage for a while. What stuff is it hard to predict? Just how much to Manders going to be there is no Playbook here.

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Who can say how many people are really going to be willing and ready to start cramping and too crowded airports and planes and traveling to unfamiliar places Richard Evans that Aviation consultant says Airlines can do a lot of planning on their own but they need help they need information about when countries are going to allow international travel again. We caught this suddenly stopped flying a hundred Central Fleet tomorrow. We need to give me give me some guidance by governments. If you want me to stop lying again plane stored as a barometer you're confident. They're going to get that information Richards consultancy keeps track of how many planes are parked in that number has been cut in half with the peak of the pandemic.

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5th episode of the indicator was produced by Jamila Huxtable with help from killing Moon. It was fact-checked by Sam at by and edited by Jay Blanchard. The indicator is a production of NPR.

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