Air India wants to make the largest order of jets in world history. What does it mean?

Amrutha Pagad
Amrutha PagadDec 12, 2022 | 15:43

Air India wants to make the largest order of jets in world history. What does it mean?

Air India reportedly planning to buy 500 jets. Photo: Getty Images

Tata Sons Group is on a blazing trail to turn Air India's operations around. In the latest, Air India is reportedly close to placing an order for as many as 500 aircraft, the largest ever in the history of aviation if the order goes through.

Buying an aircraft is an expensive affair. So, Air India buying 500 jetliners is also huge for any airliner and is likely to cost tens of billions of dollars even after offers and discounts.

According to reports, Air India plans to buy 400 narrow-body aircraft, and 100 or so wide-body aircraft including Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s and 777s. 

So, why is this important? For one, if the order is completed, Air India would break the record of American Airlines' order for 460 aircraft over a decade ago. 

  • The order comes at a time when the aviation industry has been reeling under the effects of the pandemic. 
  • Air India won't have 500 aircraft appear overnight in its fleet. The jets will be delivered over a period of time, likely a decade. 
  • But it would surely replace and add to the already burgeoning fleet of airlines owned by the Tata Group. 
  • The new additions would also reduce the average age of Air India's fleet, which at the time is about 10 years. 
  • Air India already has a fleet size of 128 aircraft, Air India Express has a fleet size of 25 aircraft, Vistara (which was recently merged with Air India) has a fleet of 53 aircraft and AirAsia India has a fleet size of 28. 

Air India's ambitions: With an expanded fleet size, Air India plans to compete in the skies with Indian domestic carriers like IndiGo as well as global airliners like the Emirates. In the next five years, Air India wants to capture 30% of the domestic market share. 

Air India has roped in Campbell Wilson as the CEO of the airliner for the difficult job. Wilson was earlier with Scoot, the low-cost sister airline of Singapore Airlines.

But the makeover is easier said than done. Air India faces issues beyond just its fleet size. It faces a crew crunch. Air India had reportedly not made any recruitment in the non-operations area for the past 15 years and is reportedly facing a cabin crew crunch resulting in delays. The new management is trying to focus on resolving some basic issues like its on-time performance, reliability, sustainability and hygiene. 

Even with the billion-dollar investments, Tata Group bought an airline that was losing money. Making Air India stop losing money and making profits will be an uphill task.

On the other hand, Air India isn't the only airline in India looking to make new aircraft orders. India has the world's fastest-growing aviation market right now and Boeing in a report in September expects Indian airliners to expand their capacity by at least 25% by the next year.  

Last updated: December 12, 2022 | 15:44
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