What questions should you ask when your aircraft lease arrangement is coming to an end? Decisions will need to be made, but how can you ensure you're in the best position to make them? Global Jet Capital's Steve Day offers insights...
Your aircraft lease arrangement is coming to an end and decisions need to be made on what to do next. What are the questions you need to be asking? Global Jet Capital’s Steve Day offers some insights.
1. Should I stay in my current aircraft?
If you like your aircraft and it continues to fit into your business goals, it may be very easy to extend your lease to retain the same plane.
The advantages of sticking with your current aircraft are obvious including retaining the same staff and (likely) the same hangar space, no need for additional certifications, and no new maintenance requirements—the list goes on.
Not only that, you’ll probably be looking at minimal, if any, additional capital outlay as you move into the extended agreement. You may even be able to roll in some additional upgrades and improvements.
That adds to the peace of mind you’ll have when you stay with something that’s been working well for you.
A lease extension can also be a useful stop-gap measure if you’re not ready to transition. If you don’t have a plan in place or things are in a state of flux, a lease extension can help you find time to regroup.
Let’s assume you want to move into a new aircraft, but the model you want won’t be available until a year after your lease expires. A flexible financing partner will work with you to create terms that will accommodate your timeframe and move you into the new lease seamlessly.
2. How does my transition plan fit into my business goals?
Perhaps recent tax changes have made you take a closer look at your approach to aviation. Perhaps your current aircraft is no longer meeting your needs. Perhaps you’re expanding into new jurisdictions. There’s certainly no guarantee that your aircraft needs will be identical to what they were when you first signed a lease that’s due to expire soon. But change is rarely a simple proposition.
Larger aircraft don’t just come with a higher price tag—they also come with different operator certification requirements, maintenance needs, more expensive insurance and higher costs for hangar space.
Together, those new requirements can be a larger-than-estimated drain on cash flow and time.
Smaller aircraft, while typically less expensive, can create their own logistical struggles. Even changing where you’ll be keeping your aircraft can be a minefield. A holistic and proactive approach to transition goes a long way towards preventing budgetary surprises, and experienced operating lease providers can be a big help during this process.
3. Do I have a conceptual transition plan?
If the answer isn’t yes, you may be in for some turbulence. To leverage the flexibility advantages of leasing, a proactive approach to transition is key. If you don’t start planning early, especially if the aircraft you’re considering could take more than a year to deliver, you might be setting yourself up for problems as the end of the term draws near.
In the best case scenario, a prepared lessee can move from one aircraft into another with minimal issue and little to no overlap or gaps in lease terms.
In the worst case scenario, an unprepared lessee can find him or herself without an aircraft due to production availability of new aircraft, or difficulty finding the right plane—which can create huge logistical problems.
Alternatively, the unprepared lessee might find him or herself paying for, maintaining and managing two aircraft at once while the initial contract wraps up.
That’s why it’s generally a good idea to start making your transition plan 18 months before the end of the lease if you’re planning on leasing a new aircraft. If you’re planning on leasing a used aircraft, 6-12 months should be sufficient.
4. What obligations will I be responsible for as I move out of this lease?
Most lease obligations aren’t solely financial or limited to regular lease payments. Obligations to manage, insure, maintain and store the aircraft you’re leasing are important components of lease agreements, and can be a large component of the overall expenses.
In addition, the return conditions specified in the lease will come with its own obligations – specifically written to protect the expected value of the returned asset.
If you’re unprepared, you might find yourself blindsided, or under-budgeted as the lease term ends.
You’ll find that an experienced lessor should be flexible in order to maintain an ongoing relationship, even if it’s a pre-expiration move into a different aircraft. In such cases, it’s usually possible to amend or extend the existing contract as necessary.
Early termination accommodations also exist, and they don’t necessarily have to come with a hefty penalty. Speak directly with your lessor and clearly articulate your needs and concerns as you plan your transition to find out what may be possible for you.
5. What kind of obligations am I getting into if I transition to a new lease?
Not all contracts are created equal. Depending on the experience of the lessor and how the agreement is structured, your obligations may be reasonable—or they may be draconian. Lessors that are focused on the corporate aviation market, typically take the time to fully understand their customer’s needs.
They manage their business models with a long-term view. They’re much more likely to structure transactions that are truly win/win agreements.
Both financial and non-financial obligations (maintenance, operation, etc.) affect the expenses, so it’s important to fully understand what you’re in for with a new lease and plan accordingly.
If you’re looking for a flexible operating lease that meets your requirements with minimal bureaucracy, you’ll likely want to consider a partner that has the expertise and market presence that cultivates customized solutions for its clients.