Aircraft leasing company Avolon has reported a return to profitability in 2021 as it continued to expand its fleet and despite the challenges the aviation sector is still facing.

Avolon said its net income amounted to $47m for 2021 compared to a net loss of $37m the previous year. Its lease revenue fell by $135m to $2.144 billion from $2.279 billion in 2020.

During the year, Avolon said it raised $3.7 billion of new debt, at a historically low average cost of 2.5%.

Avolon said its owned and managed fleet grew by 4% to a total of 592 aircraft at the end of the year, with total orders and commitments for 232 new planes.

It also said it delivered a total of 49 new aircraft and transitioned 23 aircraft to a total of 30 customers.

The company said it added 14 new customers during 2021 and now has a total of 150 airline customers operating in 62 countries.

During the year, it sold 24 aircraft - five of which were managed. It also executed a total of 228 lease transactions comprising new aircraft leases, follow-on leases, lease extensions and sale deals.

Avolon agreed what it called a "ground-breaking" $2 billion order for up to 500 VX4 eVTOL zero emissions aircraft, 70% of which were placed with airlines, such as GOL and Japan Airlines.

Dómhnal Slattery, Avolon CEO, said that while 2021 was another challenging year for the aviation industry, the company saw clear evidence of recovery in both its own business, and among its airline customers, as the year progressed.

"While challenges remain in the short-term, and recovery will be uneven across markets, we have passed an inflection point and we are in the re-build phase for our industry," Mr Slattery predicted.

"We delivered across a number of key performance metrics in 2021 - returning to profitability, expanding our fleet, and further reducing both our cost of capital and secured debt on our balance sheet. As a result, we enter 2022 with a stronger business and significant liquidity, positioned to take advantage of opportunities as they arise," the CEO added.