Global airlines and airports seek storage space as coronavirus pandemic grounds aircraft

Number of parked planes rises to 8,500 jets since the start of the year, Cirium data shows

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 27: Jets are parked on runway 28 at the Pittsburgh International Airport on March 27, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Due to decreased flights as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, close to 70 American Airlines planes are being stacked and parked at the airport.   Jeff Swensen/Getty Images/AFP
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Airlines around the world are scrambling for space to park their aircraft as the coronavirus outbreak brings passenger flights to a halt.

The number of planes in storage around the world has reached 8,500 since the beginning of 2020, with the biggest number of jets parked in Europe, according to data from aviation research firm Cirium.

The Middle East is hosting nearly 700 stored aircraft at about 30 locations, Cirium said in its latest report.

Tracking storage locations shows Europe has the largest share with about 2,800 aircraft across 210 airports. Asia-Pacific has just over 2,000 aircraft at more than 150 locations, while the latest figures for North America are 1,600 jets at 130 locations.

Asked if there is sufficient storage space for airlines to park their jets, Alexandre de Juniac, director general of International Air Transport Association, said: "It creates issues, we have to close runways and convert it to parking space," adding that airports and airlines co-ordinate plans.

The aviation industry is approaching the milestone of one third of the global fleet in storage, which is the equivalent of about 8,800 passenger jets, according to Cirium.

Airlines across the globe are grounding planes as tighter travel restrictions and border closures were put in place to contain the spread of the deadly virus.

Facing a liquidity crisis, many airlines said they are seeking government support to survive.

Global airlines will lose $252 billion (Dh925bn) in passenger revenue this year, a 44 per cent drop from 2019, as air travel demand is forecast to plunge 38 per cent in 2020, according to Iata.

As airlines reduce capacity, operators are hunting for space to store their jets. Parking planes at airports is a logistically complex and costly operation.

Furthermore, airlines must ensure the planes are maintained during storage so they can return to service in the best form when passenger flights eventually resume.

The UAE, the region's transit and financial hub, halted all passenger flights starting from March 25 for two weeks, as the Covid-19 outbreak plunges the global aviation industry into a deepening crisis. Its flag carrier Emirates has the world's largest widebody fleet.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia said on Sunday it is extending the suspension of all international and domestic passenger flights indefinitely amid heightened precautions to contain the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Kuwait and Jordan have also suspended all flights.