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Air India Airbus Boeing deals: 470 new aircraft

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Air India, part of the Tata Sons conglomerate, announced on 14 Feb that it has signed letters of intent with Airbus and Boeing to acquire both widebody and single-aisle aircraft.

The order comprises 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 order is not just the largest order ever made by an Indian airline, it is one of the largest single aircraft orders by any airline, anywhere, ever, and testifies to India’s unique combination of extraordinary scale and growth opportunity, according to Air India CEO Campbell Wilson.

Tata Sons Chairman 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 programme, 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 growth enabled by this order will also provide unparalleled career opportunities for Indian aviation professionals and catalyse accelerated development of the Indian aviation ecosystem.”

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to US President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron following the signing of the letters of intent.

Both Biden and Modi welcomed the landmark agreement between Air India and Boeing as a shining example of mutually beneficial cooperation.

Modi invited Boeing and other US companies to make use of the opportunities arising due to the expanding civil aviation sector in India.

Speaking on video call with French President Emmanuel Macron and Tata and Airbus officials, Prime Minister Modi highlighted the rapid expansion and growth of the civil aviation market in India, which will give impetus to greater connectivity between India and the rest of the world, and will in turn encourage tourism and business in the country.

Complimenting the strong presence of French companies in India, Modi also recalled the recent decision by French aerospace engine manufacturer SAFRAN to set up its largest MRO facility in India to service aircraft engines for both Indian and international carriers.

The A350 aircraft to join the Air India fleet will be powered by Rolls-Royce engines, and the B777/787s by engines from GE Aerospace. All single-aisle aircraft will be powered by engines from CFM International.

The first of the new Air India Boeing and Airbus 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 Air India’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.

Its parent, Tata Sons, recently announced its intention to merge Air India with full-service airline Vistara, a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines in which the former holds 51 per cent share. In steady state, subject to regulatory approval, the group will comprise a single full-service airline, Air India, and a single low-cost airline, Air India Express.

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