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Air India Inks Record-Breaking 470-Plane Order With Boeing and Airbus

Multi-billion dollar agreements include both Boeing and Airbus widebody and single-aisle aircraft

by Dan Booth

February 14, 2023

Air India has signed blockbuster orders with both Boeing and Airbus for a total of 470 new aircraft. The agreements, which could total more than $100 billion, represent the largest one-time deal in commercial aviation history.

The Boeing order includes 190 single-aisle 737 MAX planes, 20 787 Dreamliners, and ten 777-X to begin delivery in early 2025.

Air India’s deal with Boeing also includes options for an additional 50 737 MAX aircraft and 20 more 787s, bringing the planemaker’s total to as many as 290 aircraft.

Photo: Courtesy of Boeing Commercial Airplanes

“I am proud to announce today the purchase of over 200 American-made aircraft through a historic agreement between Air India and Boeing,” said U.S. President Joe Biden, who celebrated Boeing’s achievement by issuing a public statement via the White House’s Briefing Room.

“This purchase will support over one million American jobs across 44 states, and many will not require a four-year college degree.”

Air India’s CEO, Campbell Wilson, explained that this massive order from Boeing will enable the airline to “dramatically expand its network, both domestically and internationally,” and will feature an all-new “world-class onboard product enabling passengers to travel in the highest levels of comfort and safety.”

Wilson added that this acquisition of nearly 300 Boeing jets “is a core element of Vihaan.AI, the comprehensive transformation and growth strategy we are pursuing at Air India.”

In addition to signing a letter of intent for the Boeing jets, the Indian carrier also inked a deal with Boeing Global Services for lifecycle support services, spare parts, and landing gear exchange programs. Moreover, the airline will also contract Boeing for its pilot and maintenance technician training and aircraft modifications.

“Air India’s selection of Boeing’s family of passenger jets shows their confidence in our products and services in the world’s fastest-growing aviation market,” said Stan Deal, president, and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Their decision will support engineering and manufacturing jobs at Boeing factories in Washington state, South Carolina, and across our supply base.”

Air India, which operates a fleet of 45 Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliners, will now become one of the world’s largest operators of the 737 MAX family of aircraft. Even though the order does not disclose which variants the airline will get, Boeing has indicated that the 737-8 and 737-10 might be part of the deal.

Airbus Sells 250 Planes in India

For its part, Airbus also clinched orders for 40 widebody A350s and another 210 narrow-body A320neo aircraft from the Indian carrier.

“This is a historic moment for Airbus and for Air India,” said Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer. “India is on the verge of an international air travel revolution, and we are honored that our partnership with the Tatas and our aircraft solutions will write that new chapter for the country’s air connectivity.”

Air India operates a fleet of 68 Airbus A319/320/321 aircraft, including 30 neo variants. With this new order, the Indian flag carrier will become one of the world’s most prominent A320neo operators and new A350 ambassadors.

Photo: Courtesy of Airbus

“The A350’s unique capability will unlock the pent-up potential of India’s long-haul market; its technology, long reach, and second-to-none comfort will enable new routes and passenger experience with better economics and enhanced sustainability,” said Scherer.

Scherer complimented Air India for their “visionary strategy, picking the two reference aircraft types in each of their categories.”

According to the airline, the A350 aircraft will be powered by Rolls-Royce engines and the Boeing 777/787s by engines from GE Aerospace. In addition, all single-aisle aircraft, including the 737 MAX and A320neo jets, will all be powered by engines from CFM International.

Air India’s Renaissance

Air India—owned by India’s oldest and largest conglomerate, Tata Sons— is the country’s largest international carrier and second-largest domestic airline behind IndiGo.

The government nationalized the flag carrier in 1953, but in 2021, Tata Group regained ownership. Currently, Tata is integrating the airline with Vistara, a joint venture with Singapore Airlines, and the low-cost carrier Air Asia India.

Photo: Courtesy of Boeing Commercial Airplanes / Gail Hanusa

The new aircraft orders are part of the carrier’s plans to expand its operations and update its fleet as India’s appetite for air travel continues to surge.

According to year-end figures from IATA, India’s full-year domestic traffic rose 48.8 percent compared to 2021, reaching 85.7 percent of the level posted in 2019. At that pace, analysts project India is on track to become the world’s third-largest aviation market in years to come.

“India is going to be the world’s third-largest market in the aviation sector,” said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who joined French President Emmanuel Macron on a conference call to announce the Airbus order. “Today’s historic announcement will help in meeting this growing demand,” Modi added.

Article written by Dan Booth and Enrique Perrella