Air India announced an order for 250 Airbus jets, reportedly as part of a mammoth deal for 470 planes from Airbus and Boeing. The deal also includes an order for 220 Boeing planes plus 70 options.

The Indian flag carrier signed a letter of intent to purchase 210 A320neo family aircraft as well as 40 A350s, as the carrier paves a way for a decades-long transformation under its new owners. In September last year, Air India’s new chief executive Campbell Wilson stated that the carrier has exciting expansion and renewal plans to revive its reputation as a world-class airline.

The commitment includes 140 A320neo and 70 A321neo single-aisle aircraft as well as 34 A350-1000 and six A350-900 wide-body jets. The A320neos will be deployed on domestic and a handful of short-haul international routes, whereas the A350 will be used to “fly ultra-long routes across the globe.”

“We are committed to building a world-class airline … one of the most important things is a modern fleet which is efficient and can perform for all routes.”

Tata Group Chairman N Chandrasekaran

The long-awaited deal is reportedly worth around $37 billion based on the available market value for the most popular variant of the models, even though airlines tend to receive steep discounts on such mega deals. The deal was announced in an online event which was attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury as well as representatives of Air India and TATA Group.

“The time is right for India to turn into an international hub. India is well on its way.”

Guillaume Faury, Airbus Chief Executive Officer

“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. Today, civil aviation is an integral part of India’s growth,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during the online event.

During the online briefing, Modi also highlighted that Air India’s major deal is a part of India’s efforts to enhance its aviation industry and position the country as a hub for maintenance and repair operations in the region.

a group of airplanes in the sky
Image: Airbus

“We salute Air India for its visionary strategy, picking the two reference aircraft types in each of their categories. We are thrilled and humbled to see these aircraft become the cornerstones of Air India’s renaissance. This fleet will propel the airline globally where it deserves to be – with the best,” says Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer and Head of International.

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

Air India’s A350 Order

Airbus has achieved a significant victory by securing Air India’s deal for its flagship A350, given that Indian airlines have traditionally favored Boeing aircraft for their long-haul operations.

Sources within Air India have disclosed that the initial A350s will reach India within a year, indicating a swift induction. According to Business Standard, a total of six A350 aircraft are expected to be delivered by 2023, which were probably destined for other carriers.

Air India Orders up to 290 Boeing Aircraft

In addition to the huge Airbus order, Boeing and Air India inked an order for 190 737 MAX, 20 787 Dreamliner, and 10 777X airplanes. Moreover, the deal also includes options for 50 additional 737 MAX and 20 787-9 airplanes.

This historic order is valued at $34 billion at current list prices. Even though the exact number of aircraft of each variant isn’t confirmed yet, the 190 MAX aircraft will be split between 737-8 and 737-10 variants.

The 737-8 seats up to 210 passengers and can fly up to 3,500 nautical miles whereas the largest model in the MAX family, the 737-10 seats up to 230 passengers in a single-class configuration and can fly up to 3,300 miles.

Following the confirmation of this order, Air India becomes the 11th customer for the yet-to-be-certified flagship Boeing 777X jet.

Air India’s order is the largest Boeing order in South Asia and a historic milestone in the American planemaker’s nearly 90-year partnership with the carrier. The B777/787s will be powered by GE Aerospace engines whereas the 737 MAX jets will be powered by CFM International engines.

“This acquisition of nearly 300, highly advanced Boeing jets is a core element of Vihaan.AI, the comprehensive transformation and growth strategy we are pursuing at Air India.”

Campbell Wilson, CEO, and MD, Air India

“These new airplanes will enable us to dramatically expand our network, both domestically and internationally, and will come with a completely new, world-class onboard product enabling passengers to travel in the highest levels of comfort and safety. With this order, we are delighted to take our long relationship with Boeing to a new level,” added Wilson.

The Boeing 737 MAX jets will be used mainly on domestic routes and a handful of short-haul international routes whereas the 787 Dreamliner’s will be primarily used on flights to Europe, East Asia, and Australia. Whereas, the 777-9s will be used on long-haul flights to North American destinations.

“Air India’s selection of Boeing’s family of passenger jets shows their confidence in our products and services in the world’s fastest-growing aviation market, and their decision will support engineering and manufacturing jobs at Boeing factories in Washington state, South Carolina and across our supply base,” said Stan Deal, president, and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

Entry into Service from late 2023

The first of these new aircraft will reportedly 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 Boeing 777s and 25 A320s to accelerate its fleet and network expansion.

Commenting on this historic order, Tata Sons and Air India Chairman, Mr. N Chandrasekaran, said that these new aircraft will modernize the Airline’s fleet and onboard products, and dramatically expand its global network. The growth enabled by this order will also provide unparalleled career opportunities for Indian aviation professionals and catalyze accelerated development of the Indian aviation ecosystem.

several airplanes flying in the sky
Image: Boeing

“I am proud to announce today the purchase of over 200 American-made aircraft through a historic agreement between Air India and Boeing. This purchase will support over one million American jobs across 44 states, and many will not require a four-year college degree,” said US President. Joe Biden in a statement.

Furthermore, Air India is also heavily investing in refitting its existing widebody fleet of 787 Dreamliners and 777s with new seats and inflight entertainment systems. The first of these refitted aircraft is scheduled to enter service in mid-2024.

Airbus Manufacturing Plant in India?

TATA Group chairman Chandrasekaran further said that Airbus and Tata were working on bigger partnerships, including an ambition “to bring in commercial aircraft manufacturing at some point in time in the future”.

“We see this moment as the most significant moment for the Tata Group’s Air India, Indian aviation, and the manufacturing sector in India,” Chandrasekaran said.

Other industry sources have been reporting that India has been advocating for Airbus to establish a final assembly line in the country, akin to its northern China plant. However, the plane maker has consistently declined the proposal on the basis of financial and industrial considerations.

Feature Image: Airbus