The New Accounting for Operating Leases: Unintended Consequences in the Airline Industry
Keywords:accounting, finance, operating lease, airline, ASC 842, IFRS 16
By 2020, new accounting rules for operating leases were applicable to publicly traded companies reporting under either the US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). The accounting authorities under both standards noted that the new rules were developed to increase the transparency of lease transactions to provide more relevant and comparable information. We compare two Brazilian airlines reporting under IFRS, Azul and Gol, with an operationally similar US airline reporting under US GAAP, JetBlue, to determine whether the new standards improve the ability to understand, evaluate, and compare performance, managerial decision making and credit metrics. We conclude that unintended consequences of the new rules have in some areas hindered rather than enhanced the comparability and transparency. Based on our analysis, we recommend two changes that would enhance comparability and transparency in the airline industry as well as other industries with heavy reliance on operating leases.