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Flight to quality – Ireland’s role in aviation

Aviation & Transport Finance

Flight to quality – Ireland’s role in aviation

This insight looks at Ireland’s success in the aviation industry and what the outlook is for the future.

Wed 12 Jun 2024

3 min read

First published in the Finance Dublin year book 2024.

For anyone involved in the aviation finance and leasing industry, it is accepted that Ireland is at the epicentre of the leasing world. For those newer to the industry, it always strikes them as being both surprising and impressive. Ireland doesn’t have a large population or many airlines. But it did have a vision back in the 1970s when GPA established itself in Shannon as one of the first and most successful aircraft leasing companies in the world. GPA founder, Tony Ryan, was truly innovative and ambitious and combined these qualities with hard work and talent to build a legacy of success for Ireland that continues to grow. When you board an aircraft there is a strong chance that it is owned by or leased from an Irish company.

This article does not intend to recount the journey Ireland has been on to rightly own its current position as the epicentre of the industry. But rather to look at where Ireland stands today and what the outlook is for the future. 

The ingredients for the initial success of the industry in Ireland included an entrepreneurial spirit, a solutions-based approach to any potential obstacles and a conviction and ambition that Ireland could excel in delivering on being the best location for aircraft leasing and financing in the world. These ingredients remain vital to Ireland’s current position and are the reason why the vast majority of the top aircraft leasing companies globally are based in Ireland. These include AerCap, SMBC Aviation, Orix Aviation, Avolon and many more. The success of aircraft leasing companies now extends beyond aviation and these companies and many others play a critical role as part of broader corporate Ireland. Supplemental industries and companies have developed in tandem to support the industry in a variety of ways and create a global hub of expertise in Ireland. The companies have thrived on the availability of highly educated and talented workforce, a stable yet entrepreneurial friendly economy and fantastic weather (OK, two out of three is not bad!).  

The successful leasing companies in Ireland are highly respected and admired and their position and scale in the industry will help both their future growth and continue to ensure that Ireland dominates as the key jurisdiction in this area. It hasn’t been all plain sailing and the aviation industry in Ireland has demonstrated its ability to manage crisis points, be resilient and adaptable and come out stronger and better. Over the years, more and more of the executive teams are based in Ireland and the opportunities for leadership roles are in Ireland. Knowledge of this success has become much more widespread. Investment in providing educational opportunities at all levels has increased significantly which has guaranteed a strong future pipeline of talented professionals in all areas. The management and boards of directors of the aviation companies in Ireland are comprised of highly regarded and experienced executives with a global perspective. Their views on the economy and what is needed for businesses to grow carry great weight and as the aircraft leasing companies become more embedded in the broader corporate environment in Ireland the benefits of such wisdom will multiply.  

Both the world of aircraft leasing globally and the growth of aircraft leasing companies and related businesses has meant their needs have naturally become more complex. In terms of the lifecycle or trajectory of the industry, we are at a stage when expertise across a broad range of areas is now essential. Top quality standards in terms of talent, advisors and support services are essential. The aircraft leasing companies are no longer just setting the standard within the aviation industry, they are exceptional success stories within broader corporate Ireland.   The challenges they face are not confined to aviation related matters,albeit there are plenty of specific aviation related issues from supply chain to availability of finance to fill their agenda. But rather they include the same challenges and opportunities facing all large successful corporates in Ireland and internationally.  Without a doubt, Ireland and its market leading aircraft leasing companies will continue to play their part globally in setting ambitious targets around ensuring a diverse workspace, impeccable corporate governance, regulatory compliance and meeting sustainability targets. The investors in the aviation industry are varied and include governments, private equity and financial institutions from around the world. These investors have had a positive experience with investing in Ireland through the aviation industry and see Ireland at the cutting edge of financial services and are seeking other opportunities in Ireland to diversify their investments.   

In short, Ireland’s success in the aviation industry is no longer considered niche or the exception but rather an example of what can be achieved with the right focus. It feels like we are just shifting gears to a new level of recognition and that the flight to quality might be very contagious!

For more information. please contact Marie O'Brien, Partner, Susanne Cunningham, Associate, or any memeber of the A&L Goodbody Aviation & Transport Finance team.

Dtae published: 12 June 2024

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