Aviation sector supports close to 8,600 Irish jobs

Ireland’s aviation sector contributes almost $1bn annually to the Irish economy.

The aviation leasing industry in Ireland contributes $975m (€897m) to the Irish economy and supports 8,543 jobs.

This is according to PwC’s report ‘Taking flight 2023: An economic and employment analysis of the aviation leasing industry in Ireland‘.

“The industry serves as a flagship for the rest of Ireland’s international financial services industry and demonstrates that Ireland can attract and retain decision makers and be a global leader in finance”

Based on 2021 data, the report reveals that the Irish aviation leasing industry contributes US$975 million (€897 million) to Ireland’s economy, an increase of 26% from US$771 million (€709 million) when last reported in early 2018. This comprises Irish suppliers’ expenditure of US$823 million (€757 million) and payroll exchequer contributions of US$152 million (€140 million). Gross payroll to aviation leasing employees is US$387 million (€356 million). 

Flying high

Citing 2021 data, job creation in the sector is up 71% since 2018. According to 2021 data, full-time equivalent jobs supported (directly and indirectly) by the aviation leasing industry in Ireland are 8,543, up 71% from 4,970 when last  reported in early 2018. Many of the individuals working directly in the industry are key decision makers in senior management positions.

Underpinned by pent-up demand, respondents reported growth expectations in Irish based aircraft numbers of 26% between 2022 to 2025. The largest proportion of this growth is expected to be fueled by additional fleet leased to Asia, followed by South and Central America and Europe. 

Asia’s share of Irish lease rental income has increased to 43% in 2021, up from 33% in 2018 when last reported.  This makes Asia by far the largest market for Irish aviation lessors, surpassing Europe, which was the largest market in 2018.  

Europe’s share of Irish lease rental income is 23%, down from 35% in 2018 and is the second largest market.  Surprisingly,  the North American market has contracted by approximately 5% between 2018 and 2021.

“I welcome the publication of this report by PwC, which reaffirms what we in the industry know – that aircraft leasing is both a critical enabler of the global aviation industry and a highly valuable contributor to the Irish economy,” said Marie-Louise Kelly, chair of Aircraft Leasing Ireland (ALI).

“Despite the challenges of recent years, the aircraft leasing sector has shown remarkable resilience, increasing its contribution to the local economy, and providing even more highly-skilled local jobs. ALI remains focused on driving aviation to a sustainable future and we will continue to work with PwC, and other partners, to ensure Ireland retains its leadership position as the global centre for aviation leasing.” 

The report highlights that the aviation leasing industry has more work to do when it comes to gender diversity including establishing formal structures for reviewing diversity and inclusion.  Almost 66% of respondents only had up to 25% female representation at a C-Suite level.  Outside of the C-Suite, three-quarters (75%) of aviation leasing companies reported female representation to be only between 25% and 50% across all employees. 

The cost of doing business in Ireland (including interest rates and inflation) ranked as the top challenge facing the Irish aviation leasing industry with respondents specifically referencing the cost of housing and the cost of living driving pay demands to unsustainable levels.  Significant new challenges such as sustainability and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) will change the landscape of the industry over the coming years.  Other key challenges include competitive tax regimes in other jurisdictions, international tax reform creating a growing degree of tax uncertainty and Ireland’s personal income tax system with a marginal income tax rate significantly higher than competitor jurisdictions.  The report calls for further improvements in the Special Assignee Relief Programme (SARP). 

“The rate of growth highlighted in the survey reflects an Irish aviation industry that continues to show resilience despite some extensive geopolitical, ESG and other challenges,” said Joe Conboy, Partner, PwC Ireland Aviation Finance Practice.

“The industry serves as a flagship for the rest of Ireland’s international financial services industry and demonstrates that Ireland can attract and retain decision makers and be a global leader in finance. It is a provider of highly skilled jobs, not just directly within the aviation leasing sector itself, but also in the wider professional services industry which supports it.  It is important that Ireland’s aviation leasing industry stays ahead of the game and remains cognisant of the fact that Ireland’s position as a global leader in aviation is fragile and needs to be nurtured in order to enable it to continue to grow.”

Main image at top: Yvonne Thompson, Leader, PwC Ireland Aviation Finance Practice; Joe Conboy, Partner, PwC Ireland Aviation Finance Practice; Michael McGrath, TD, Minister for Finance and Marie-Louise Kelly, Chair, Aircraft Leasing Ireland

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.