The narrowbodies are likely to be placed with low-cost subsidiary Air India Express.
Since being a fully privatized flag carrier owned by the Tata Group in January this year, Air India has undergone quite a transformation. From an expanded route network to a confirmed merger with Vistara, the airline’s been on a progressive roll. And the biggest change is yet to come, as Air India is closing in on negotiations with Boeing to revamp its fleet.
Previously, it was speculated that the flag carrier would likely place a firm order for 50 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft with an option to add an additional 150. However, it seems like the numbers have changed, and Air India is more likely to close in on placing a mega order of 190 Boeing 737 MAX instead. These narrowbodies will be placed with the airline’s low-cost subsidiary, Air India Express.
The overwhelming increase in Boeing narrowbodies presumably stems from how fully-booked Airbus currently is until 2028 at the earliest. However, Boeing is supposedly able to promise immediate delivery of at least 50 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft originally meant for China Southern Airlines, which would help Air India Express increase capacity and meet growing demands faster.
Furthermore, the low-cost carrier currently operates an all-Boeing narrowbody fleet of 737-800s, so increasing the order quantity for the 737 MAX seems more logical.
Although the narrowbody additions seem to be getting a mega order, Air India isn’t in too much of a rush to place an order for as many widebody aircraft. In contrast to the 190 Boeing 737 MAX it is likely seeking, the flag carrier is presumable only looking to place an order for about 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Also on the widebody table is how Air India could be the latest Boeing 777X customer in quite some time.
While the possibility is there, the confirmed numbers aren’t, most likely due to the airline’s uncertainty about when production will be completed. But even with the delayed timeline on the Boeing 777X, the Star Alliance airline might not have to compromise on capacity as the airline has recently decided to lease five Boeing 777-200LRs and six 777-300ERs, some of which were formerly operating for Delta Air Lines, to help with near-term growth.
Airbus also gets a bite of the pie
This year has been quite a rocky yet relatively successful year for Boeing, as even with the usual certification issues and supply chain disruptions, deliveries and productions have been going well. Orders from major carriers have also been piling in, such as United Airlines’ recent mega order for 200 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, and if the deal with Air India goes through, it’s another success for the US manufacturer.
However, the flag carrier’s massive fleet revamp doesn’t just involve negotiations with Boeing alone, especially since the fleet investment supposedly totaled approximately $100 billion. This means that Airbus has also been included in both narrowbody and widebody discussions. Although the big Boeing 737 MAX order will go to Air India Express, the flag carrier is looking towards adding another 200 of the Airbus A320 aircraft family.
And since the Boeing 777X will take some time and leasing aircraft is only a temporary solution, Air India has been looking into the Airbus A350, approximately a dozen of them. Similar to how Boeing promises to deliver its narrowbody aircraft quickly, Airbus promises to provide the A350s, which were initially meant for Aeroflot, just as quickly.
Overall, it’s a waiting game to see when Air India will close the highly-anticipated deals with both aircraft manufacturers. But regardless of the quantities and aircraft type, the deals will still ultimately symbolize the growing and glistening future of the once-troubled flag carrier.