Air India has opened talks with Airbus and Boeing for a ‘historic’ order

Those in India’s aviation circles have long known that Air India plans to place a significant order of aircraft to fuel its ambitious growth over the next several years. And while we still don’t know the exact number of planes the carrier will order, its CEO said we can expect something historic, backed by significant investment.


Historical arrangement

At a JRD Tata Memorial Trust event in Mumbai on Saturday, Air India CEO Campbell Wilson revealed that the airline is currently in talks with Airbus and Boeing for a large aircraft order that will sustain the growth of the company in the coming years.

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Wilson shared his vision of making Air India a major player in the aviation world within a decade and hinted at the scale of the future system, saying,

“We are in deep discussion with Boeing, Airbus and engine manufacturers to secure a historic order of the latest generation aircraft that will support Air India’s growth in the medium and long term. Given the overall downside risk, the investment will be significant.”

An Air India Boeing 777-200 LR on the tarmac at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai

Photo: Getty Images

Among the biggest challenges Air India presented to its new owners was its fleet. The company has not invested in new aircraft in years, and several aircraft in its existing fleet have been grounded due to a lack of spare parts, which has affected capacity and revenue.

But Tatas was quick to focus on fleet optimization and had already taken significant steps to boost capacity even before a major order was announced.

A significant increase in capacity

The size of the Indian Airlines fleet has increased over the past few months and will only increase in size in the coming days. For the longest time, many of its aircraft, both narrow-body and wide-body, were grounded because the government didn’t have the money to buy engines and spare parts to make them airworthy again.

But all that has changed now, with nearly 20 aircraft on the ground recovered and back up and running. but that is not all. The airline is waiting for another 30 aircraft, including several Boeing 777s on short-term leases, that will be delivered over the next 12 months, starting next week.

Air India Airbus A320

Photo: Airbus

The carrier is also in discussions to charter more aircraft, so one can expect its fleet to appear much larger even before it begins receiving aircraft from its firm orders. The charter aircraft is expected to increase the size of its fleet by 25%. Air India has not seen this kind of fleet re-jumping in years.

Focus on long term goals

Wilson and his team have a long way to go to fix an airline that has suffered years of neglect. But they seem aware of the challenge and ready to face it head on.

We’ve seen the new owners take initiatives to improve the soft product, hire new talent, and make an attempt to change the work culture within the company. However, there is a lot that needs fixing, as evidenced by frequent customer complaints about broken seats and in-flight entertainment systems. But identifying all of these issues will take time. Rishi Jain of UK-based Jain Aviation Consultants says we shouldn’t expect Tatas to solve these problems overnight. He told Simple Flying,

Air India now has all the money to do what it wants, but Tatas needs time to fix all its problems. They are trying very hard to fix the seats, IFE and aircraft interiors but they are constrained by global supply chain issues. And while they are starting to work on these issues, we can expect to see fundamental changes in the next 12-18 months.”

The Air India Boeing 787 cabin displays the seats and in-flight entertainment screens

Photo: Getty Images

In fact, the carrier has embarked on a five-year turnaround plan to capture at least 30% of India’s domestic and international market share, which means Wilson and his team have their hands full for the foreseeable future.

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  • Tom Boone 200

    Indian water

    IATA/ICAO Code:
    AI/AIC

    Airline type:
    full service carrier

    Axis(s):
    Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport

    Year Founded:
    1946

    alliance:
    Star Alliance

    Executive Director:
    Campbell Wilson

    nation:
    India

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