Why Planes in the Desert May Boost Fares

Apr 21, 2009

MARANA, Ariz. — Hundreds of once-proud aluminum birds are parked here with engines sealed, tires wrapped and windows covered. Whether these passenger jets will soar across continents again will have a direct impact on how much you pay to fly.

The airline industry has grounded more than 11% of its jets in dusty airplane boneyards, mostly in New Mexico, Arizona and California. Planes from all corners of the world end up here, but U.S. airlines have led the way, clipping the wings of 800 aircraft since mid-2008, according to London-based Ascend Worldwide Ltd. That’s a fleet far bigger than AMR Corp.’s American Airlines’ 626 jets (plus 47 in storage).

More are coming — jets are being parked at a rate of about 30 per month this year. And the drop in international business travel has prompted the mothballing of wide-body jets.

What happens in aircraft storage fields may ultimately lead to fewer cheap tickets for consumers. By aggressively removing seats from service, airlines have better matched capacity to weakened demand, enabling them to fly through this recession with more financial stability than in past downturns.

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