Ren may not be stopping at component maintenance outsourcing, as the airline considers long-term fleet-renewal plans. “We have a dialogue going with Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier on our future fleet—and who will support them. We want to know that we can get some assurance from them that maintenance support will be at a certain level, because that is where you always take a chance.”
Tore Jenssen, fleet manager for Oslo-based Norwegian, reports that the carrier has selected Boeing's Edge (formerly GoldCare) to provide total logistics and maintenance support on the eight Boeing 787s it has on order. It also is considering similar programs for its on-order 737 MAX and Airbus A320NEOs. This is the first time that Norwegian has outsourced all logistics support on an aircraft, he says.
“With all the new technology involved on this airplane, it will be much more cost-efficient for our operation to go with Gold Care, and to let our engineering people focus on our current 737 fleet,” he explains. Norwegian flies 12 737-300s and 55 737-800s.
This is an example of a major trend in Europe toward greater participation of the large MROs and original equipment manufacturers in technical support, Jenssen notes. “It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the coming years. That could put pressure on the smaller MROs and reduce competition.”
But will the “outsourcing evolution” mean that operators will opt more for contractors that will relieve them of the maintenance planning and supply-chain management burden? The potential is certainly there, says McBride.
“There are several firms capable of handling this for a major carrier, and a number who have pitched it to the majors, but the big carriers just haven't been able to pull the trigger,” he says. “It's a tough sell, because of the involvement of large sums of money tied up in inventory, as well as extensive control. However, I think the supplier/management firms will win them over because they can do the job better and save the airlines money. I've seen the difference, and I know it's a chance worth taking for the airlines.”
McBride points out that any trends in that direction are more likely to happen with the low-cost carriers, which, he says, focus on their core-product revenue generation.
“Many already outsource maintenance programs, technical publications and inventory management, and I don't see that changing. As for the legacy carriers, it's on their radar, but not something they are pushing right now,” says McBride.
JetBlue Airways' Highlander notes that the airline actually considered—but opted against—technical purchasing outsourcing.
The airline found there were not cost-competitive because it only has a seven-person technical purchasing department,” says Highlander. Nonetheless, the carrier has “totally contracted out” its surplus inventory sales through an agreement this past January with VAS Aero Services. “We consign the surplus parts to VAS, which warehouses them and maintains the sales force and infrastructure, so there is no need for JetBlue to do this in-house,” he says.