AerCap Holdings (NYSE:AER) said Tuesday that it has negotiated the deferral of 37 aircraft originally expected to be delivered in 2021 and 2022 to later years, giving the aircraft leasing company more flexibility to manage things through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Travel demand has been hit hard by the pandemic, causing airlines to scale back growth plans and ground planes. That has created new risk for companies like AerCap that count on airlines as customers. Shares of AerCap have lost 50% of their value year to date and were down 75% year to date as recently as March, on investor fears AerCap would be left holding aircraft that it would be unable to place with airlines.

A ground worker directs a plane to the gate.

Image source: Getty Images.

The rescheduling helps alleviate that risk. AerCap said the moves will reduce cash capital expenditures by $4.7 billion in 2020 and 2021. AerCap now expects total cash expenditures of $1.1 billion through the rest of 2020 and $2.5 billion in 2021 and said all the planes expected to be delivered in 2020 and 2021 have already been placed on long-term leases.

"We have taken these steps to better align our delivery schedule with the needs of our airline customers and our OEM partners during this period of market dislocation," company CEO Aengus Kelly said in a statement. "We expect to reschedule additional aircraft deliveries in the future as we continue to work with our customers and the manufacturers."

The news is a positive for AerCap investors, but for Boeing and Airbus shareholders, it is a reminder of how long the impact of the pandemic is likely to last. AerCap is in constant contact with its customers concerning long-term airplane demand and based on the deferrals sees little to suggest a quick recovery.

Kelly said during the company's first-quarter earnings call last month that he was beginning to see Chinese air travel return. In the Tuesday statement he said, "since the low point in mid-April we have seen a steady increase in air traffic in Europe and the United States."

But as airlines restore flights, they are likely to do so with planes already in the fleet and grounded, and not by adding new planes, for the foreseeable future.

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