© Jason Schronce/Shutterstock.com

Key Points:
  • Air Lease Corporation offers worldwide aircraft lease, management, and financing solutions to airlines, government agencies, and commercial users.
  • BBAM’s services include aircraft management and maintenance, aircraft leasing and financing, aircraft purchases, aircraft origination and disposition, and other related services.
  • SMBC delivers mid-term and long-term aircraft leasing and management services to airline companies seeking various aircraft operations, including sales leaseback transactions.

Aircraft leasing companies are the facilitators of much of the air travel you take advantage of today. They provide planes to airlines worldwide and ensure that their fleets are in tip-top shape with regular maintenance and inspection checks. These companies buy, lease, and rent airplanes to airline companies, governments, and VIPs. They also resell airplanes, including new aircraft and second-hand ones, to other companies.

The global leasing industry has been growing exponentially over the last few years, with commercial aircraft leasing being one of the most rapidly developing segments within that market sector. But, who are the largest aircraft leasing companies in the world, and what do they do exactly? Here’s everything you need to know about these organizations, from history to services and more!

#10: Aviation Capital Group – 450 Aircraft

Aviation Capital Group is one of the largest aircraft leasing companies in the world, and it’s known for twin-aisle commercial jet aircraft, asset management, and marketing services.

It is a wholly-owned indirect subsidiary of Tokyo Century Corporation, a global leasing and specialty finance company. The company was founded in 1989 and has locations in Newport Beach, California, with a global presence and representatives in Shanghai, Dublin, and Madrid.

Aviation Capital Group buys and sells helicopters for a variety of uses, including medical evacuation services, law enforcement, and public transportation. The company also has its own maintenance facilities to keep its fleet running smoothly. Their goal is to help businesses expand their reach by providing access to new markets through aircraft leasing.

Aviation Capital Group’s main focus is on providing their clients with specially-designed aircraft leasing and finance products and providing them with access to a wide variety of aircraft models that can be customized to fit their needs. They also offer a wide range of client support services, such as maintenance and operations management.

#9: Air Lease Corporation – 481+ Aircraft

Air Lease is an aircraft leasing company based in Los Angeles. Founded in 2010 and headed by Steven Udvar-Hazy, it has become one of the biggest players in aircraft leasing.

It holds over 481 commercial jetliners with a net value of $3.44 billion. They offer aircraft leasing as well as maintenance and repair services. Air Lease Corporation has locations in over 65 countries, including the United States and in Europe and Asia.

The company offers worldwide aircraft lease, management, and financing solutions to airlines, government agencies, and commercial users.

They specialize in leasing Boeing  777 Family, 767s, 737 NG Family, and Airbus A320neo, A220s, and A330s for passenger and cargo use. Their customers include major carriers like Air France, Air Canada, Air China, British Airlines, and American Airlines. Air Lease has locations around the globe, with headquarters in Los Angeles, California, and offices in Singapore, London, Dublin, and Hong Kong.

Air Lease Corporation
Air Lease Corporation is based in Los Angeles, CA, and mostly leases commercial jetliners.

©T. Schneider/Shutterstock.com

#8: Nordic Aviation Capital – 500 Aircraft

Nordic Aviation Capital is a leading aircraft leasing company in the world, with offices in both the United States and Europe. They specialize in commercial aircraft leasing and trading. NAC was founded in 1990 in Skive, Denmark, by aviation entrepreneur Martin Møller.

NAC offers leasing and lease management services to airlines and aircraft investors worldwide. NAC’s team of industry specialists has been offering flexible, customizable, and competitive aviation solutions to airlines worldwide for over 30 years.

Nordic Aviation Capital offers a wide range of aircraft leasing options, including fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, business jets, and commercial cargo planes. Their fleet includes E170/175/190/195, Airbus A220, Q400, and ATR 42/72. The company has a plan to expand into larger single-aisle aircraft like Boeing 737s, Airbus A320s, Embraer 190s, and Beechcraft King Airs.

Nordic aviation capital aircraft
Nordic Aviation Capital specializes in commercial aircraft leasing and trading.

©Rudzenka/Shutterstock.com

#7: BBAM – 519 Aircraft

BBAM is one of the largest aircraft leasing companies in the world, and it has been for several years. It was formed in 1991 as a division of Babcock and Brown. The company’s services include aircraft management and maintenance, aircraft leasing and financing, aircraft purchases, aircraft origination and disposition, and other related services.

For more than 30 years, BBAM has been a global pioneer in aviation investing and asset management, providing unique investment options to its Capital Partners and Third-Party Investors in a developing and exciting new asset class.

As a full-service lessor, BBAM can also offer tailored fleet and financing solutions to its more than 200 airline customers worldwide. The corporation manages a fleet of over 500 aircraft, including Airbus, Boeing, and Embraer jets. BBAM manages assets for a variety of capital partners and offers a full range of services to investors in the aviation leasing business. BBAM’s goal is to provide investors with outstanding risk-adjusted returns. The company had over 150 asset management professionals and staff working in BBAM offices worldwide as of 2020.

#6: BOC Aviation – 612 Aircraft

BOC Aviation is a top-tier aircraft leasing company in the world. It is based in Singapore and has offices in Dublin, London, New York, and Tianjin. Boullioun Aviation Services, Inc., a U.S.-based aircraft operating leasing company, created the company in 1993 as Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise Pte. Ltd.

Temasek Holdings (Private) Limited and the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation Private Limited joined the founders as shareholders in 1997, expanding the company’s stakeholder base.

The company was acquired by and became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bank of China in December 2006. In 2007, the company’s name was changed to BOC Aviation Pte. Ltd. due to the acquisition. The company offers a full range of aviation services, including sales and marketing, fleet management, maintenance and repair, flight operations, customer relations, and development.

BOC Aviation
BOC Aviation was acquired by the Bank of China in 2006.

©Nieuwland Photography/Shutterstock.com

#5: ICBC Leasing – 668 Aircraft

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited (ICBC) is a state-owned commercial bank. The bank’s Tier 1 capital in 2013 was the largest of 1,000 worldwide banks, thanks to funding from the Chinese Ministry of Finance, making it the first bank headquartered in China to hold this distinction in modern times. ICBC Leasing has been around for a long time, and it’s gotten bigger and better over the years.

At the end of 2018, ICBC Aviation Leasing owned and managed 668 aircraft, 385 of which were commercial aircraft. ICBC Aviation Leasing offers cutting-edge fleet leasing solutions to 83 domestic and international airline clients in 38 countries and regions.

ICBC Leasing offers specialized leasing services for airlines, airports, aircraft manufacturers, repair and maintenance factories, and other aircraft-related businesses, thanks to its professional experience in aircraft financial services. Their services apply to local and international airlines, airports, manufacturing facilities for the repair and maintenance of aircraft, and other businesses involved in civil aviation.

They have a team of experts with extensive professional knowledge in aviation and aircraft and ICBC’s extensive branch network who create specialized leasing plans based on customer needs. This allows the company to meet customers’ varied and unique needs and maximize their value.

#4: SMBC Aviation Capital – 735 Aircraft

SMBC Aviation Capital is one of the largest aircraft leasing companies in the world. They have a strong presence in the Middle East, Europe, and the United States, and they’ve diversified their portfolio to include aircraft from multiple manufacturers.

SMBC delivers mid-term and long-term aircraft leasing and management services to airline companies seeking various aircraft operations, including sales leaseback transactions. It provides financial solutions for commercial and business jet manufacturers by serving as a full-service global provider of airframe financing.

The company now has 735 aircraft in its portfolio (357 owned and 168 managed), with another 210 aircraft on order from Airbus and Boeing, consisting of B737-800s, A320-200s, A320neos, and B737 MAXs. The firm’s portfolio includes over 18 years of experience in the industry, with more than 10,000 transactions completed since inception. SMBC is considered one of Asia’s leading aviation finance companies, with a strong presence in China, Singapore, Japan, and Europe.

SMBC Aviation Capital
SMBC Aviation Capital manages and leases 735 aircraft.

©T. Schneider/Shutterstock.com

#3: Avolon – 833 Aircraft

Avolon is a global aircraft leasing company that provides its services to airlines, operators, and fleet owners. Avolon specializes in providing aircraft leasing services for clients from all around the globe. It operates in more than 60 countries worldwide, including Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, and Japan. Avolon was founded in 2010 with the goal of being an industry leader in aviation financing. Aircraft leasing is a growing industry and a vital source of funding for the commercial aviation industry.

The founding management team, which still runs the Avolon firm today, developed a strategy that has stood the test of time. It is based on competitive advantages that distinguish the company and support its capacity to deliver continuous earnings growth.

The company also has offices in North America and Europe and an extensive network of agents throughout the Asia Pacific. Avolon leases aircraft and manages leases for airlines and aviation investors worldwide. Their fleet includes Airbus A330-200/300, Boeing 737 NG Family, Boeing 787 8/9, Airbus A350-900, Airbus A330 NEO, Boeing 777-300ER, and Airbus A320 NEO.

#2: GECAS – 1,500 Aircraft

GECAS (GE Capital Aviation Services) is a leading aircraft leasing company that provides specialized and innovative aircraft leasing solutions to airlines and other companies around the globe. The company provides aircraft financing and leasing solutions and aircraft maintenance, parts supply, engineering services, and technical support. GECAS also provides purchase leaseback options. The company’s global headquarters are in Shannon, Ireland, and Norwalk, Connecticut. The corporation has approximately 575 employees and 26 offices worldwide.

GECAS operates a fleet of about 1,970 aircraft for 2,700 clients in 75 countries. They provide the most comprehensive lease and loan solutions in the industry. Their financing products and services include operating leases, sale/leasebacks, secured debt finance, engine leasing, materials and aircraft trading, and asset management.

GECAS offers international customers private jet and regional jet leasing services for their corporate aircraft needs; this includes leasing aircraft for corporate travel needs and full-service airline operations. The company also provides aircraft maintenance and overhaul services for commercial aircraft operated by airlines.

In November 2021, GECAS merged with AerCap. The strategic deal represents a big step forward in transforming GE into a stronger, more focused, and high-tech industrial corporation.

#1: AerCap Holdings N.V. – 1,800+ Aircraft

Based in Dublin, Ireland, AerCap is the largest aircraft leasing company in the world today. In fact, it ranks number one in terms of its fleet size.

Its assets include wide-body planes, regional jets, freight planes, plane engines, and helicopters. It had 3,701 aircraft, engines, and helicopters owned, on order, or managed as of December 31, 2021, comprising 1,756 owned aircraft, 196 managed aircraft, 417 new aircraft on order, and over 900 owned and managed aircraft engines, largely made by General Electric and CFM International. It owns 355 helicopters through its subsidiary, Milestone Aviation Group.

The corporation is a major buyer of aircraft from Boeing, Airbus, and Embraer, as well as aircraft engines from CFM International, GE Aviation, International Aero Engines, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce Limited. AerCap has been a pioneer in aircraft leasing for over 50 years. They have grown to become one of the leading companies in this industry. They continue to grow their business by offering comprehensive and tailor-made fleet solutions unrivaled in the leasing business.

Its helicopters are leased to businesses like Saudi Aramco, Babcock International, CHC Helicopter, and Bristow Helicopters. Customers served by the company’s cargo segment include Amazon, Maersk, and ASL Airlines Ireland. The company generally leases aircraft through operating leases, wherein the lessee is in charge of maintaining and servicing the equipment during the lease term. The company gets paid the equipment’s residual value at the end of the lease.

AerCap website
AerCap is the leading aircraft leasing company in the world, with thousands of aircraft and parts under its management.

©T. Schneider/Shutterstock.com

Summary of the Largest Aircraft Leasing Companies in the World

RankAircraft Leasing Company and Number of Aircraft
#1Aercap – 1,800+ Aircraft
#2GECAS – 1,500 Aircraft
#3Avolon – 833 Aircraft
#4SMBC Aviation Capital – 735 Aircraft
#5ICBC Leasing – 668 Aircraft
#6BOC Aviation – 612 Aircraft
#7BBAM – 519 Aircraft
#8BBAM – 519 Aircraft
#9Air Lease Corporation – 481+ Aircraft
#10Aviation Capital Group – 450 Aircraft

Up Next…

The 10 Largest Aircraft Leasing Companies in the World, and What They Do FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Do airlines buy or lease planes?

Most airlines do not own planes. Instead, they lease from aircraft leasing companies. A lessor is a company that leases out its fleet of aircraft to airlines. This allows carriers to avoid upfront costs and enjoy lower rates on their leases. It also lets them pay for aircraft as they go instead of fronting large sums at once — which is often necessary when buying a plane. Leasing provides an alternative model for airline companies that helps them maintain their fleet while still saving money on operation costs.

How does airplane leasing work?

A lease is a binding agreement between a lessor and a lessee, who is typically an airline (leasing company). The lessor, the asset’s owner, is responsible for collecting recurring payments from the lessee in exchange for the right to use the asset (an airplane).

How many planes does AerCap own?

With assets worth around $70 billion, including more than 1,800 aircraft, more than 900 engines, more than 300 helicopters, and an order book of more than 460 of the most fuel-efficient, new technology aircraft in the world, AerCap is the industry leader in aircraft leasing and aviation finance.

How much can you lease a plane for?

Plane rentals usually charge by the hour, so you only pay for the time you use the plane. Though the exact numbers vary from company to company, rentals usually run between $150 and $500 per hour, depending on the size and engine capacity of the plane.

Is aircraft leasing profitable?

In short, yes, they are profitable. With aviation booming as it is and passenger numbers rising yearly, airlines do lease more and more aircraft.

Does Emirates own or lease aircraft?

Most Emirates A380 aircraft are leased.

How long are aircraft leases?

A typical dry lease lasts upwards of two years and bears certain conditions with respect to depreciation, maintenance, insurances, etc., depending also on the geographical location, political circumstances, etc.

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