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An Air India 777-300ER (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

Air India Considers Airbus A350 Order

As the Tata Group works on their reorganization of Air India, one important part of that is fleet planning. The current Air India fleet is a mixed bag of poorly maintained aircraft in various stages of disrepair. Years of mismanagement have left the airline’s fleet in a state of serious improvement. It’s not that the airline has old planes, the airline did start flying Boeing B787 aircraft a while back but those fell apart pretty quickly. The airline cannibalized some of their new planes for parts for older aircraft along with general poor maintenance. All in all, a fleet refresh has been a long time coming and may finally happen.

Rumors of A350 Order

While not official, there was reportedly a memo sent out to Air India pilots inquiring if there is any interest to be trained on the Airbus A350. This has sparked speculation that the Tata Group is currently in talks to acquire A350 aircraft. Tata Group chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran was also said to have recently gone over to Airbus headquarters in Toulouse.

On top of this Airbus has a good number of A350s ready for delivery. There are a number of undelivered A350s in Airbus’ inventory due to Aeroflot not taking deliveries due to sanctions and Qatar refusing delivery due to quality issues. This presents a prime opportunity for the Tata Group to quickly buy up the A350s and begin integrating the aircraft into the Air India fleet as early as 2023. Rumor has it that the airline is looking to buy around 20 A350s, other rumors say up to 50 A350s and 100 or more A321-neos.

Airbus’ chief commercial officer, Christian Scherer,  also had some choice words to share about Air India during the IATA general meeting in Doha. Scherer stated that “Air India is clearly reorganizing itself under the very able stewardship of the Tatas and as such, it is very natural that they contemplate an investment in new fleets, new airplanes if only to regain more sovereignty, more market share, for an Indian carrier in the international market”. He did however decline to comment on any talks that may have happened over purchasing aircraft.

There also is a possibility the Tata Group is talking to Boeing for aircraft as well, but it’s unlikely Boeing will be able to provide aircraft as quickly as Airbus can. Boeing currently owes Vistara, another Tata airline, two B787s that haven’t been delivered due to quality issues plaguing Boeing. The Tatas may place an order with Boeing for B787s that would be delivered at a future time.

If Air India does proceed with this order from Airbus, it would give the European manufacturer entry into the widebody market in India. Currently, no Indian airline operates widebody Airbus aircraft. Air India’s and Vistara’s widebody fleets are comprised of Boeing aircraft. Jet Airways when it previously flew did operate Airbus A330 and A340 aircraft along with Boeing B777s.

Regardless of the type of aircraft ordered, a fleet refresh is a welcome move by the Tatas. The new aircraft will be a great step forward for the airline. However, the Tatas shouldn’t discount the existing fleet. If the airline pulled a Delta Air Lines and maintained planes and interiors well, Air India can pull out quite some more time with their existing fleet.

Author

  • Hemal took his first flight at four years old and has been an avgeek since then. When he isn't working as an analyst he's frequently found outside watching planes fly overhead or flying in them. His favorite plane is the 747-8i which Lufthansa thankfully flies to EWR allowing for some great spotting. He firmly believes that the best way to fly between JFK and BOS is via DFW and is always willing to go for that extra elite qualifying mile.

Hemal Gosai

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