Report: Air India To Place Massive Aircraft Order

Report: Air India To Place Massive Aircraft Order

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Several weeks back we learned how Air India was allegedly nearing a record-breaking aircraft order. Well, there are now reports that this order could be less than a week away…

Air India to place biggest aircraft order in history

Air India was privatized roughly a year ago, and is now owned by Tata Group. The carrier’s owners are trying to turn things around for the better. They’ve been making progress, though as you’d expect, the transformation isn’t happening overnight.

The biggest part of Air India’s transformation is expected to be revealed shortly. Reuters is reporting that Air India is nearing a historic aircraft order for nearly 500 jets, with an order expected to be announced on Friday, January 27, 2023 (I assume that timeline remains subject to change). Sources suggest that we’ll see orders placed for the following aircraft:

  • 425 narrow body jets, including 235 Airbus A320neo-family aircraft and 190 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft
  • 70 wide body jets, including 40 Airbus A350s, 20 Boeing 787s, and 10 Boeing 777Xs

At list prices, these deals would be worth many tens of billions of dollars. The biggest aircraft order ever was from American Airlines roughly a decade ago, when the airline ordered 460 Airbus and Boeing jets. Air India might just beat that record here.

As you can see, Air India isn’t going for fleet consistency with this order, but rather I assume the priority is securing orders with delivery slots in the not-too-distant future, which requires going with multiple aircraft manufacturers.

Arguably the most interesting part of this development is the plan for a Boeing 777X order. This would be Boeing’s first 777X order in quite some time, as the jet has been struggling with certification, and now isn’t expected to enter passenger service until at least 2025.

Ahead of these new aircraft deliveries, Air India has been leasing some planes to add capacity, including getting some former Delta Boeing 777s.

Air India is expected to order the Boeing 737 MAX

Tata Group seems serious about reinventing Air India

Tata Group was Air India’s initial owner when the company was founded in the 1930s, before it became government owned. I think it goes without saying that Tata Group is serious about turning the airline around, or else the company wouldn’t have bought a money-losing airline with endless issues.

Tata Group’s takeover of Air India was announced roughly a year ago, and initially not much changed. However, it seems that we’re finally now seeing what a transformation could look like.

At this point we know that Air India and Vistara will be merging, and that Singapore Airlines will be taking a roughly 25% stake in the airline. It has also been announced that Air India will be spending $400 million updating the interiors of its long haul jets.

For context on the scale of Air India’s aircraft order, Air India and Vistara currently have around 220 planes combined. This makes the company the largest international airline in India, and the second largest domestic airline, after IndiGo.

Tata Group now seems to be going all-in on a transformation. If enough money is invested in the airline, I have no doubt that Air India can have a modern fleet and competitive hard product. The question is whether the culture at the company can change, in terms of service, reliability, etc. Singapore Airlines being involved certainly gives me some hope.

If Air India can actually be turned into a good, profitable airline, it might just be the greatest airline turnaround story ever. But that’s also still a big “if” for now.

Air India is expected to order the Airbus A350

Bottom line

Air India is reportedly preparing to announce an aircraft order in the next week. This could be for up to 500 jets, and orders are expected with both Airbus and Boeing. Specifically, we can expect orders for the Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX, Airbus A350, Boeing 787, and Boeing 777X.

Air India’s transformation is going full speed ahead, between the merger with Vistara, Singapore Airlines’ ownership stake, long haul cabins being refreshed, and now this. I can’t wait to see how this all plays out.

What do you make of Air India’s alleged aircraft order?

Conversations (26)
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  1. iamhere Guest

    Not about reinventing and more about expanding their fleet and destinations

  2. Ray Guest

    Should be good for India if Boeing agrees to assemble a good chunk of the 737 MAXes there with local facilities. Even Airbus could tech transfer to Tata Advanced Systems and have the A320neo be locally assembled

  3. Denis Guest

    Hopefully Air India will install more toilets in the business class cabin

  4. Lune Gold

    India has been making a big push to develop a domestic aerospace industry. Boeing has setup some work in India, but the govt has been pushing both Boeing and Airbus to setup more manufacturing and assembly in India. I wonder if this is part of the motivation for such a big order all at once? Basically, if you can guarantee a massive number of orders over a decade or so, in exchange for investing in building up the domestic aerospace industry?

  5. Sir Digby Chicken Caesar Guest

    Air India is going to be one of the best airlines on the planet in 5-10 years. Hopefully the route map is massively upgraded along with the planes, interiors, service, food presentation, etc. It should be a fully global airline and is now in the right hands to make that happen. Great for Star Alliance!

  6. globetrotter Guest

    Singapore government has a majority stake in Singapore Airlines and it is well-known not to invest in anything that won't be profitable. Singapore also has a big East Indian and Malay communities. Singapore is highly respected for its virtual absence of corruption, bribery and nepotism. I vividly remember reading a classified employment ad which stated that Malays needed not apply, when I visited it three decades ago. I also lived and worked in Kuwait three...

    Singapore government has a majority stake in Singapore Airlines and it is well-known not to invest in anything that won't be profitable. Singapore also has a big East Indian and Malay communities. Singapore is highly respected for its virtual absence of corruption, bribery and nepotism. I vividly remember reading a classified employment ad which stated that Malays needed not apply, when I visited it three decades ago. I also lived and worked in Kuwait three decades ago where the workforce was 60% or more East Indians so I am quite familiar with their culture. I find they are the most difficult people to deal with. India is at the bottom on my list of host countries. A big maybe for its safari only. One professor who visited us there said " In India, inside the restaurant is the first world place but outside is the third world slum." India is on track to surpass China's population due to the influences of its four major religions. The two countries' cultures truly clash so I am skeptical the airline can compete with other Mid-East airlines. For a country to advance or a business to thrive, it requires both quality leadership/ management and populace/ workforce. For me, I rather am a follower of a genius who I can learn from than a leader of a group of imbeciles.

    1. Richard Quest Guest

      It’s wonderful that your trip to Singapore three decades ago was so memorable, and led to you becoming such an expert on all things Singapore. What are your thoughts on their investment in FTX, which has recently been written down from $275million to $0, after less than two years? And in which country did you learn to write like a badly-programmed AI?

  7. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Air India, like the country, is playing the political game with this order. They have to stay loyal to both Europe and the US and this order likely will split the value - although perhaps more in favor of Europe.
    This a massive order and they will likely be able to get alot of MAXes before A320family jets but probably can get the A350 before alot of Boeing widebodies.

    And yes, having Singapore on...

    Air India, like the country, is playing the political game with this order. They have to stay loyal to both Europe and the US and this order likely will split the value - although perhaps more in favor of Europe.
    This a massive order and they will likely be able to get alot of MAXes before A320family jets but probably can get the A350 before alot of Boeing widebodies.

    And yes, having Singapore on board, and Tata instead of the government running the show could be all that India has needed to run a great airline. There is no reason why the Middle East carriers should be carrying the majority of India's longhaul international traffic.

    1. Sir Digby Chicken Caesar Guest

      They want the best planes, so have ordered mostly Airbus… but don’t want to annoy the cowboys, so have ordered a few Boeings. It’s not “politics” per se, just common sense CYA

    2. ConcordeBoy Diamond

      Meh, more like they don't want to wait forever to get all of their narrowbodies in.

      Airbus appears to be the favorite here, and understandably so; but even with 3+ FALs running, there's no way that they could get the totality of that order to AI within a decade, without massively denying other clients.

    3. Sean M. Diamond

      The Max are supposedly going to Air India Express (which, now that it is merged with Air Asia India, is going to take over the lower yield domestic routes with single class config aircraft). The Airbus narrowbodies will go to the mainline fleet which will be combined with Vistara for operations on trunk domestics (2 class config) and regional routes. In both cases, these will simply build on existing fleets (AIX has 27x 738s and...

      The Max are supposedly going to Air India Express (which, now that it is merged with Air Asia India, is going to take over the lower yield domestic routes with single class config aircraft). The Airbus narrowbodies will go to the mainline fleet which will be combined with Vistara for operations on trunk domestics (2 class config) and regional routes. In both cases, these will simply build on existing fleets (AIX has 27x 738s and AI/UK combined have 117x A320 family).

      Different horses for different courses.

  8. Sachin Guest

    Until the overall culture of India changes, count on these planes on being absolutely filthy within one year of service.

    1. Colin Guest

      They don’t need to change the culture of an entire country to keep the planes clean, they just need to hire cleaners who are motivated (paid?) enough, and well-managed enough, to do a good job, consistently. For the Tata’s, this is as much an exercise in legacy-building and reputation as it is in profitability. It will need to be profitable (eventually, on paper), but they’re not maximising profit - just making a profit. Just like...

      They don’t need to change the culture of an entire country to keep the planes clean, they just need to hire cleaners who are motivated (paid?) enough, and well-managed enough, to do a good job, consistently. For the Tata’s, this is as much an exercise in legacy-building and reputation as it is in profitability. It will need to be profitable (eventually, on paper), but they’re not maximising profit - just making a profit. Just like the ME carriers. The result will be a great airline to fly with, if they stick with this approach - great for customers, and great for India

    2. Lune Gold

      Since Gulf carriers carry the majority of India's passengers right now, I guess those planes are absolutely filthy? I mean, it has nothing to do with whether the airline maintains a decent cleaning crew and protocol, and everything to do with the degenerate culture of the passengers themselves, so yeah all those planes from Emirates, Etihad, Qatar must be absolutely filthy...

      Oh wait, they're not filthy? Hmm... something must be wrong but it can't be...

      Since Gulf carriers carry the majority of India's passengers right now, I guess those planes are absolutely filthy? I mean, it has nothing to do with whether the airline maintains a decent cleaning crew and protocol, and everything to do with the degenerate culture of the passengers themselves, so yeah all those planes from Emirates, Etihad, Qatar must be absolutely filthy...

      Oh wait, they're not filthy? Hmm... something must be wrong but it can't be my stereotypes of ethnic customs. Nope, can't be that...

  9. Patrick Guest

    But can they pay for them. Not a well run outfit.

    1. Eve Guest

      The airline has been privatised and is now run by TATA, which is a $24 billion multi national conglomerate. I mean they own a large portion of mining and steel business in Europe and Jaguar Land Lover, so I think we can trust them on having a stern backing. Besides I am pretty sure they are gonna do leasebacks where they purchase the aircrafts and then sell it to leasing companies from whom they lease...

      The airline has been privatised and is now run by TATA, which is a $24 billion multi national conglomerate. I mean they own a large portion of mining and steel business in Europe and Jaguar Land Lover, so I think we can trust them on having a stern backing. Besides I am pretty sure they are gonna do leasebacks where they purchase the aircrafts and then sell it to leasing companies from whom they lease on a very favourable agreement

      There is also the fact that SIA is joining with 25% stake and $300 million infusion in 2024

    2. Eve Guest

      $128 billion* not $24 billion

  10. Nelson Gold

    "Singapore Airlines being involved certainly gives me some hope"
    Fully agree with you Ben!
    Not sure but quite sure this is a MoU instead of a 'buy.'
    If I was the CEO of AI I would rather wait for the next Paris Air Show to anounce such a massive order. Sure it would have a much bigger impact. And it's not that far away...

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      27th January is the anniversary of the Tata takeover of Air India so that date has been chosen for a very specific reason.

    2. John Guest

      @Sean M.
      Buy a hat with a wider brim and get rid of the one you're wearing. It makes you look like Kirby from the Anthill Mob.

    3. Sean M. Diamond

      Haha. Wider brim hats don't work well with indoor televised events as they throw too many shadows. I have a wide range of hats to meet different needs!

  11. AnishReddi Member

    How much of the order can we expect to be options? As 500 seems quite ambitous and headline making. Having the options but not orders makes sense, especially as delivery slots are so hard to come by and Indias aviation market is expected to grow like crazy.

  12. DaBluBoi Guest

    How many aircraft do yall reckon will be delivered to AI by the end of this year?

    1. DanielDare Guest

      None at all

      AFAIK
      airbus have a 3-5 years waiting list depending upon the model
      & as the writer says
      the B777X isn't expected into service for nearly 3 years

      Which is why AI will be doing the interior upgrades on it's existing fleet
      for now....

    2. Sean M. Diamond

      @DanielDare - Air India is already committed to taking multiple A321Neo this year. The first are already in paint shop and awaiting delivery imminently. They are taking slots previously intended for Russian carriers.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Sean M. Diamond

The Max are supposedly going to Air India Express (which, now that it is merged with Air Asia India, is going to take over the lower yield domestic routes with single class config aircraft). The Airbus narrowbodies will go to the mainline fleet which will be combined with Vistara for operations on trunk domestics (2 class config) and regional routes. In both cases, these will simply build on existing fleets (AIX has 27x 738s and AI/UK combined have 117x A320 family). Different horses for different courses.

4
Sean M. Diamond

27th January is the anniversary of the Tata takeover of Air India so that date has been chosen for a very specific reason.

4
Sean M. Diamond

@DanielDare - Air India is already committed to taking multiple A321Neo this year. The first are already in paint shop and awaiting delivery imminently. They are taking slots previously intended for Russian carriers.

3
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