Airlines answer seasonal air travel demand with ACMI, shares Avion Express CEO

As air travel demand becomes more seasonal, driven by a surge in leisure travel peaking in summer and dropping in winter, airlines face the challenge of adapting to these fluctuations.

Traditionally, airlines ramp up their schedules and resources for the busy summer months, leading to overcapacity and underutilized assets during the quieter winter season. This seasonal imbalance can strain finances, as maintaining profitability is challenging when aircraft and crews are underutilized in winter.

Aviation Forum: Interview with Avion Express CEO

To manage these seasonal peaks and troughs more effectively, airlines are increasingly turning to ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance, and insurance) leasing, also known as wet leasing. This strategy allows airlines to lease additional aircraft, from ACMI providers such as Avion Express, along with the necessary crew and maintenance services, during peak demand periods, and return them during off-peak times.

Avion Express is a Europe-based, narrow-body ACMI and charter airline, operating a fleet of over 50 Airbus A320 family aircraft. With two decades in the industry, the airline boasts being one of the largest passenger ACMI narrow-body carrier globally by number of aircraft, number of flights and production hours also known as block hours.

“The main reason why our business exists is seasonality, because there is different seasonality between different continents,” shares Avion Express CEO, Darius Kajokas in an Aviation Forum interview.

ACMI leasing offers a significant advantage in maintaining high aircraft utilization rates and operational efficiency. By using wet leases, airlines can avoid the financial losses associated with winter overcapacity and underutilized assets.

This approach also provides a buffer against unexpected demand spikes or delays in new aircraft deliveries, offering a reliable and scalable solution to capacity management.

“We are a ‘B2B’ company, we are never in the tickets selling business, [rather] we provide our services to the airlines,” shares Kajokas.

Today Avion Express, has a team of more than 1,700 professionals based across more than 15 bases during the summer season of 2024, providing services to its ACMI customers around the world. The airline operates two AOCs established in Lithuania and Malta, and is in the process of establishing a new AOC in Latin America.

Avion Express is also a subsidiary of Avia Solutions Group, known to be the world’s largest ACMI capacity provider.

Kajokas highlights the airline’s investment to reach new customers outside its home market Europe, particularly in South America, where ACMI leasing is gaining visibility as a viable business practice for airlines in that region.

“We are reaching a tipping point in the Americas in terms of ACMI,” shares Kajokas who also highlights the increasing adoption of ACMI in markets that were once closed to ACMI as a business model, including countries such as Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.

In an era of increasing seasonality, ACMI leasing provides a practical alternative to expanding owned fleets. It enables airlines to adapt to fluctuating demand without the financial strain of maintaining surplus aircraft year-round. By incorporating ACMI leasing into their strategy, airlines can optimize their operations, maintain profitability, and respond more flexibly to changing market conditions.

Watch the full interview.

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