I only have 5,500,000 of the loan left to repay but will definitely look at buying out some of the aircraft I will be keeping - thanks for that suggestion. I have about another 12 x A320s on order for delivery in 2001/2 and I might change the payments on these from lease to purchase, prior to delivery. Is this a possible sensible option?
Couple things before buying -
1. At your airline's current stage, before buying, make sure you have a strong orders pipeline for new planes if you plan on continuing to expand. 12x A320s means you'll get about a 9 month flow of them - if the wait is longer than 9 months for your next order, you need to go ahead and get in line at least to the extent there's a plane production backlog so you're not left waiting on more planes to show up.
2. Once you have your planes ordered, I would not convert ordered planes from lease to buy because you won't get any benefit of putting that money to use in plane ownership until it is delivered. Given that you hvae to make finance changes 10+ months out, its a poor use of cash unless you've got nothing better to do with it.
3. I generally buy out planes that I have leased when they are coming up on the end of their lease cycle (as you have to pay a penalty for early lease termination). This would be the best way to go if you've got spare cash, and it will also help you with tax planning - by truing up your total profit to $0 at year end, you'll get all your tax payments back in a refund.
4. A321's offer rather superior economics to A320s especially if you have enough demand where you're flying to support them.
My aircraft utilisation is an average of 14.1hrs (257th in the league table of airlines) and my average load factor is 73.2% (238th in the league table of airlines), so I can see that both of those need to be improved upon.
Overall, those numbers aren't great unless for the load factor you've got heavy competition on every route you're flying (I find it to be unlikely).
Utilization is difficult to make a quick judgement without seeing a scheduling page or even knowing the types of routes that your'e flying, but I think your biggest concern is revenue generation rather than expenses - if you can increase your loads to 83%, your total profit (not considering loan repayment/taxes) will TRIPLE, as every extra passenger is effectively profit to you.
For the 747s, I would consider looking at the 7 day scheduling concept if you are flying them farther than 3000nm each way as that will help you maximize their utilization and revenue potential. For short haul, try to have planes do a red-eye overnight and short hops during the day to push up their utilization. It'd be awesome if you could get that number up to 16 hours.
Of course, other pro-tips -
1. No flights arriving/taking off between 00:00-04:55.
2. Don't schedule flights to the same destination too close together
3. Avoid competition if you're trying to increase profits with limited planes.
4. When planes are limited, consider pulling them off of a marginally profitable route and putting them on one with less competition/more profit potential.
5. Reprice to standard pricing on a regular basis (at least 2x per game year)