IAG International Airlines Group is contemplating early retirement of B747-400s operated by British Airways (BA, London Heathrow) and A340-600s operated by Iberia (IB, Madrid Barajas) but also other types as it plans for the recovery phase after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Group Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh said during an investor briefing.

"Our analysis of the likely evolution of demand through 2020 is that we would not require all of our aircraft, that we will temporarily ground, to come back into service, so we're now evaluating how many of those that will be grounded will be permanently grounded," Walsh said.

He underlined that the thirty-one B747-400s operated by British Airways and the sixteen A340-600s flying for Iberia are all fully depreciated and will be the first to leave the fleet.

According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, the Boeing quadjets operated by BA are 23 years old on average. The Airbus quadjets at Iberia are 13.9 years old on average. While British Airways owns all B747s, Iberia owns six of the A340s and leases the remainder from LICO Leasing (six), Showa Leasing, Sumitomo Mitsui Finance & Leasing, Universal Asset Management, and Whitney Leasing (one each).

Walsh added that "a couple" of A330s operated by Aer Lingus (EI, Dublin Int'l) could also be permanently retired. The Irish carrier operates four A330-200s (17.8 years old on average) and eleven A330-300s (6.5). It owns three -200s and seven -300s, and leases one -200 from Castlelake, two -300s from Nomura Babcock & Brown, and one -300 each from AerCap and Castlelake.

Finally, the group could also consider retiring around 20 narrowbody aircraft. Walsh did not specify from which carrier they would potentially come.

"I would also point out that we have a significant number of narrowbody aircraft coming off lease as we go through 2020, into 2021, over 40 narrowbodies come off lease in 2021. So there's a lot of flexibility in the fleet," Walsh added.

Walsh also clarified that while the group has not cancelled any orders yet, it was in talks with both Airbus and Boeing.

"At this stage, we are looking at delaying CAPEX... We are having a very good dialogue with the OEMs, Boeing and Airbus, as you would expect, and that has been very constructive, so I'm pleased in relation to that, so we do have flexibility in relation to our contracts but also in the discussions that we're having with them - we're expecting additional flexibility,' he said.

Editorial Comment: The article has been updated with additional information about IAG's orders. - 07.04.2020 - 14:23 UTC