Air India (AI, Mumbai International) has finalised its high-anticipated aircraft order, with the airline placing a firm order with Boeing for 220 aircraft, with options for 70 more. Rival Airbus has also booked a firm order for 250 planes with “significant options” to increase that number if required. This is the largest aircraft order on record, besting the 2011 American Airlines order for 460 aircraft.
Boeing’s firm order includes 190 B737-8s and B737-10s (the exact numbers for each type were not specified), twenty B787-9s, and ten B777-9s. There are options for a further fifty MAX as well as twenty B787-9s.
The Airbus order includes firm commitments to purchase 140 A320-200Ns, seventy A321-200Ns, thirty-four A350-1000s, and six A350-900s. Underscoring the significance of these orders, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron attended the online announcement of the Airbus order while US President Joe Biden announced the Boeing order from the White House.
“This order is an important step in realising Air India’s ambition to offer a world-class proposition serving global travellers with an Indian heart,” said the Tata Sons chairman, N Chandrasekaran, in a statement, also adding that Tata Sons and Airbus were working on other projects, including potentially bringing some aircraft assembly lines to India.
Deliveries from this order are set to commence later this year when the first A350-900s will arrive. Those jets will become the first A350s to be based in India. The A350-900s were flagged for Aeroflot (SU, Moscow Sheremetyevo) but could not be delivered due to sanctions. Boeing will also start deliveries this year, with 25 MAX aircraft scheduled to arrive in 2H 2023. The tempo of deliveries from both manufacturers is expected to significantly increase by 2025. It was also confirmed that aircraft engine maker CFM International was selected to supply the engines for the narrowbody Airbus jets, trumping Pratt & Whitney. The widebody aircraft will use engines manufactured by General Electric and Rolls-Royce.
Campbell Wilson, CEO and MD of Air India, said the new aircraft would play an important part in Air India’s transformation and growth strategy. “A core element of this transformation is the significant expansion of our network, both domestically and internationally, coupled with the elevation of our on-ground and onboard product to world-class standards,” he said. Formerly state-owned, Air India was acquired by Tata Sons in January 2022, which subsequently announced plans to overhaul the airline and rebuild its reputation.
In its statement regarding the order, Airbus said India was on track to become the world’s most populous nation with a fast-growing economy. “A burgeoning middle class will spend more on air travel,” the statement said. “As a result, passenger traffic in India will grow fast, including on the long-range markets in the US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.” Boeing anticipates the Indian market will need 2,210 new aircraft over the next 20 years.
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