With the progressing outbreak of the Corona Virus the IATA has recently changed its predictions about the losses to be suffered by the aviation industry

from IATA

The losses originate from the reduced number of passengers and the subsequent grounding of aircraft for which there are no passengers.

The question is, can all the aircraft in the air be grounded at either their origin or destination airport. If not, where else can they be stored?

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    $\begingroup$ Most aircraft are on ground at night $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ Not if I look at FR24 as it is always somewhere around the world night. Right now the sky looks very busy in Asia and Australia.. Smaller jets maybe stay on the ground but all the larger aircraft are still flying $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 14:49
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    $\begingroup$ You probably want to look at what happened in the US after 9/11 $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ Freight will keep flying, regardless. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 18:50
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    $\begingroup$ As the question will still be valid in several years, you may add dates when speaking of "recently". Yes it can be deduced from other metadata but it is more readable if it is included directly in the question description. $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 8:29

2 Answers 2


Short answer: Yes.

You need to distinguish between short-haul and long-haul fleets.

For example, when it is 4 a.m. in Central Europe, almost all the aircraft which fly short-haul routes throughout Europe during the day will be on the ground somewhere in Europe simultaneously and there must, therefore, be ample parking for all those aircraft (though not necessarily at gates). Similarly for other parts of the world: when it is 4 a.m. in the central U.S., all the short-haulers will be parked-up somewhere in the U.S.; when it is 4 a.m. in South East Asia, all the short-haulers will be parked-up somewhere in South East Asia, and so on. There must, therefore, be ample parking for all short-haulers globally.

For long-haul fleets, it is a different matter. Such aircraft spend up to 16 hours a day in the air, and therefore well over half the aircraft will usually be airborne at any one time, round the clock. It is highly abnormal to have all long-haulers on the ground simultaneously. If all those long-haulers need to suddenly be grounded, it can cause serious problems, as happened after 9/11 when the entire transatlantic and transpacific fleets suddenly stopped flying. However, even then, the airport operators did manage to find sufficient parking.

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    $\begingroup$ When nothing is flying, runways can be used for parking. (Not every runway, obviously, but some of then.) The runways at airports the long-haul jets typically use are roughly 2 miles long, which is a LOT of concrete. And they tend to have the in parallel. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Commented Mar 10, 2020 at 18:49
  • $\begingroup$ Note that there are LOTS of aircraft which never visit a gate, and which might (if not flying) be parked on the ramps of FBOs, or at cargo terminals. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 3:05
  • $\begingroup$ it's always 5 o'clock somewhere :) $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ Most FedEx, UPS, etc cargo aircraft are on the ground or in the air at (more-or-less) the same time for the particular continent they serve. The handy thing is that their ground/air cycle is more-or-less opposite that of the pax fleet. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Mar 11, 2020 at 15:25

Possibly not at the origin or destination, especially if the grounding is sudden and unbalanced as happened after 9/11. Hub airports may not have enough pavement to hold all outbound and inbound planes; it's assumed only half will be there on average.

However, with a modicum of planning or if ferry flights are allowed, both of which should be true in the case of something relatively slow-moving like an economic downturn or pandemic, then aircraft can be moved as needed to places where parking is cheaper and/or more abundant. Consider how airlines managed to find plenty of places to stash all the grounded 737MAX planes in a matter of days.

If the impact is severe enough, planes can be parked on extra runways, such as sometimss happens when a huge number of business jets converge on an airport for a major sporting or political event.


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