What Is Aircraft Wet Leasing? Why Is It Important?

‘Wet leasing airline’ was the buzzword of 2018, referring to incredibly flexible airlines that can operate anywhere, at any time and for anyone. In fact, thanks to them and their fleets, air travel has become more convenient and hassle-free than ever before.

But what exactly is wet leasing, and how does it work?

What is Wet Leasing?

Imagine that you are leasing a car. For your money you get a vehicle with four wheels and a steering wheel. A wet-lease however, is more akin to a taxi. Your car comes with a driver, fuel and the registration to operate on the roads.

Several companies in the aviation space offer not just aircraft for lease, but provide their own pilots, flight crew, maintenance, and even airline certificates. This is called wet leasing.

What do Wet Leasing airlines provide?

There are several things that wet-leasing airline provide to their customers.

The first is obviously the aircraft. Some wet-lease airlines operate small fleets of A320s or 737s, but others, such as Hi Fly operate the full range of Airbus aircraft: A320, A330, A340 and A380, from 150 to 500 seats, from the medium haul to very long haul, from narrow body to the very large aircraft category.

HiFly A380
One of Hi Fly’s A380s. Photo: Hi Fly

Secondly, a wet-lease airline provides all the required assets to fly the aircraft. This includes crew, maintenance, airline certificates and, importantly, third party liability insurance. All direct operating costs such as fuel, catering, airport fees, handling and navigation fees are paid for directly by the client to the service providers (i.e. Airports).

So, for example, if British Airways was to hire the new Hi Fly A380 to replace one of their own Airbus aircraft on Heathrow to JFK, they would simply slot the aircraft into their schedule. All payments will already be facilitated between British Airways and its destination airport.

Lastly, when it comes to options such as food and entertainment, many wet-lease airlines offer their customers a choice. Either provide their current entertainment (such as loading it onto their system) or the wet-lease can provide their own. The same goes for food, with many wet-lease airlines offering their own catering services.

What is like to work for a wet-leasing airline?

Unlike other airlines that have hub locations in which their crew can rest, stay and build a life, many wet-lease crews are stationed with their aircraft in new cities for months at a time.

Ryanair cabin crew are stationed at a hub airport. Photo: Ryanair

It is not like a typical cabin crew job. To work as a cabin crew at Hi Fly means that you could be called to spend three months based in New Zealand or Brazil or anywhere else in the world. You need to be ready with a positive mindset towards the unexpected and you’ll be sure to live the adventure of a lifetime.

Why is Wet-Leasing important?

Wet-lease is very important to the industry, as airlines often turn to wet-leasing to ensure smooth operations during peak traffic seasons, to cope with scheduled or unexpected maintenance checks, or to test new routes. Furthermore, a wet-leased aircraft may be used to fly services into countries where the lessee is not able to operate.

For example, the flag carrier of Egypt, EgyptAir, is not allowed to fly to Israel. As such, a new ‘airline’, Air Sinai, wet-leases EgyptAir flights to travel between the two countries.

Generally, the aircraft can be deployed at very short notice, sometimes as little as three hours, to cover short or medium term transportation needs. This means that primarily wet-lease aircraft are hired by airlines and governments. As we saw with Norwegian, several wet-lease aircraft were hired to cover their fleet capacity when their 787 Dreamliner fleet was grounded.

Norwegian Dreamliner
Norwegian Dreamliner. Photo: Norwegian.

The flight is operated under the customer airline flight numbers and is billed by the wet-lease airline in flight hours, as opposed to tickets to passengers.

Although wet-lease is the core business, many of these airlines also offer their fleets for high-quality charter flights.

What do you think of wet-leasing? Let us know in the comments!