Air India places huge order of 470 jets from Airbus and Boeing

Air India has announced plans to buy 470 jets from Airbus and Boeing amid hot competition from domestic flight provider IndiGo.

Air India, which was recently acquired by Tata Group, said it plans to acquire both widebody and single-aisle aircraft.

The provisional deal, which includes 220 planes from Boeing and 250 from Airbus, comprises of 40 Airbus A350s, 20 Boeing 787s and 10 Boeing 777-9s widebody aircraft, as well as 210 Airbus A320/321 Neos and 190 Boeing 737 MAX single-aisle aircraft.

The A350 aircraft will be powered by Rolls-Royce engines and the B777/787s by engines from GE Aerospace.

Tata Sons and Air India Chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran said: “Air India is on a large transformation journey across safety, customer service, technology, engineering, network and human resources.

“Modern, efficient fleet is a fundamental component of this transformation. This order is an important step in realising Air India’s ambition, articulated in its ‘Vihaan.AI’ transformation program, to offer a world-class proposition serving global travellers with an Indian heart.

“These new aircraft will modernise the airline’s fleet and onboard product and dramatically expand its global network.”

The first of the new aircraft will enter service in late 2023, with the bulk to arrive from mid-2025 onwards.

In the interim, Air India has already started taking delivery of 11 leased B777 and 25 A320 aircraft to accelerate its fleet and network expansion.

The acquisition of new aircraft, which will come with an entirely new cabin interior, complements the firm’s previously announced plan to refit its existing widebody B787 and B777 aircraft with new seats and inflight entertainment systems. The first of these refitted aircraft will enter service in mid-2024.

The Air India group currently comprises full-service Air India, as well as two low-cost subsidiaries – Air India Express and Air Asia India – which are in the process of merging.

US President Joe Biden called the agreement “historic” and discussed it by telephone with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Typically, such a deal would force the two planemakers to fiercely compete for such a contract. The rare order is so large that, for once, both companies win out.

“This important deal shows, along with the deepening of relations between India and France, the successes and aspirations of the civil aviation sector in India,” Modi said during a video ceremony with French President Emmanuel Macron.

“This achievement shows that Airbus and all its French partners are fully dedicated to develop new areas of dedication with India,” Macron said.

The deal will help the firms to bolster their finances after struggling in the post-pandemic era. In 2020, Airbus was forced to cut production on its A350 wide-body airliners following tepid market conditions and its share price has still not hit pre-pandemic heights.

Embattled Boeing has faced years of difficulties stemming from faults in its 737 MAX aircraft, which led to two separate crashes, before all models of the aircraft were grounded for a period.

Air India’s announcement coincides with Aero India, the country’s biennial air show which is running all this week in Bengaluru. Both Airbus and Boeing have a significant presence at the show. 

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