Air India has signed a massive contract for over 500 new jets worth more than $100 billion at list prices, in what could be the single largest order by any airline as it strives to rebuild itself under its new owners.
The agreement, which will be shared equally between Airbus and rival Boeing, was initially reported by Reuters in December and could be confirmed as soon as next week, according to sources.
Air India has decided to buy 250 Airbus planes, divided into 210 single-aisle A320neos and 40 widebody A350s, and 220 Boeing planes, including 190 737 MAX narrowbody jets, 20 787 widebodies, and 10 777Xs.
While Boeing and the airline reached an agreement on January 27—one year after Tata reclaimed possession of the erstwhile state-run carrier—Airbus and Air India finalised their agreement on Friday.
Airbus opted not to respond. An email seeking comment sent outside of regular business hours did not immediately receive a response from Air India.
The airline announced on January 27 that it was “finalising a historic order for new aircraft.”
The procurement underlines Air India’s goal to update its outdated fleet and reclaim a sizeable portion of travel between India’s sizable overseas diaspora and cities like Delhi and Mumbai, which is primarily controlled by Gulf rivals like Emirates with its newer aircraft.
The agreement for 400 narrowbodies will also enable Air India to defeat IndiGo on both domestic and international fronts by increasing its share of domestic and regional traffic.
Even if the Airbus number is a little less than the 275 originally planned, the sources did not completely rule out Air India making a provision for eventual top-up purchases or leases.
It wasn’t immediately obvious whether the figures in the agreement took into account any choices that might change the ultimate sum after the orders are received.
The record order intends to elevate Air India to the level of major international carriers and establish it as a significant client for suppliers and planemakers at a time when its domestic market is experiencing a significant post-COVID-19 travel surge.
Air India, with its maharajah mascot, was previously renowned for its opulently adorned aircraft and first-rate service, but as its financial problems grew in the mid-2000s, so did the airline’s goodwill.
The airline hopes to rebuild its status as a storied provider of first-rate aircraft and immaculate service both domestically and internationally under the leadership of its new owners.