Airlines scattered throughout the world, from Air New Zealand to British Airways and Norwegian have been plagued with engine issues for their Boeing 787 Dreamliners. The 787s that are affected all have Rolls-Royce’s Trent 1000 engines, which have suffered from fan-blade issues. These issues have led to aircraft being grounded, causing a myriad of consequences including capacity cuts on certain routes, other new routes being postponed, sudden diversions, and older aircraft delaying retirement. However, one group is benefiting: Wet-lease operators.
What is a wet-lease?
Wet-leasing is when the lessor provides the aircraft and crew. The airline you booked your ticket with will handle the marketing and ticketing and any issues arising from the flight. But essentially, the entire flight experience from boarding to de-planing is in the hands of the wet-leasing operator.
Some example companies that offer wet-lease services include:
- Hi Fly
- Wamos Air
- Evelop Airlines
British Airways and Sun Express have both wet-leased aircraft from charter airline Air Belgium- which only has a small fleet of three Airbus A340s. On the more unconventional side of things, Qatar Airways was in the wet-lease game. In fact, Air Canada and Royal Air Maroc wet-leased aircraft from Qatar Airways for the busy 2019 summer season.
Some of these wet-lease operators have won out because of the ongoing Trent 1000 situation. In fact, Norwegian has had to wet-lease from a number of airlines including euroAtlantic, Wamos, Evelop!, and Hi Fly specifically due to its grounded 787 fleet.
As mentioned above, British Airways has had to lease one of Air Belgium’s A340s. Polish carrier LOT had to do the same. Air New Zealand turned to Hi Fly due to its grounded 787s, wet-leasing an A330 and an A340. Air Austral has also wet-leased A330s from Hi Fly.
While it’s fantastic that wet-lease operators exist to save the day and allow scheduled flights to continue, they can also lead to some disappointment for passengers. The airline doing the leasing is certainly taking a risk and putting its reputation in the hands of the wet-lease operator.
In fact, when we’ve reported on Norwegian wet-leasing, a number of our readers hoping to fly on the airline’s 787s have complained and expressed disappointment. In September, a euroAtlantic 767 under wet-lease for Norwegian Airlines’ had to divert due to technical issues. When asked if the experience was scary, a Simple Flying reader who had flown on the aircraft, commented saying:
“Absolutely yes, from the time I got on the plane and realized how old it was. It’s indecent behavior on Norwegian’s part. Shame on them for treating human lives this way!” -Simple Flying reader
Thankfully, incidents like this don’t happen too often. But it does highlight the fact that sometimes customers feel betrayed or tricked when they end up flying on a wet-lease aircraft. However, until the Trent 1000 issue is fully resolved, airlines have limited options if they want to keep their scheduled services.
“We sincerely regret the operational impact to our customers and we are working closely with them to minimise this. We deeply appreciate their continued support,” -Chris Cholerton, President of Civil Aerospace at Rolls-Royce