It has long been known in Indian aviation circles that Air India plans to place a significant aircraft order to fuel its ambitious growth over the next few years. And while we don’t yet know the exact number of planes the airline will order, its CEO said we can expect something historic, backed by significant investments.
At the JRD Tata Memorial Trust event in Mumbai on Saturday Air India’s CEO Campbell Wilson revealed the airline is currently in talks airbus and Boeing for a substantial aircraft order that will shoulder the airline’s growth for years to come.
Sharing his vision of making Air India a major player in the aviation world within a decade, Wilson hinted at the scale of the future order, saying:
“We are in intensive discussions with Boeing, Airbus and engine manufacturers on a historic order for a next-generation aircraft that will fuel Air India’s mid- and long-term growth. At the risk of gross understatement, the investment will be substantial.”
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Among the greatest challenges Air India presented to its new owners was its own fleet. The airline has not invested in new aircraft for years and many aircraft in its existing fleet have been grounded for lack of spare parts, impacting capacity and revenue.
But the Tatas quickly focused on fleet optimization, taking significant steps to increase capacity even before announcing a major order.
Significant increase in capacity
Air India’s fleet size has been growing in recent months and will continue to grow in the coming days. Several of its planes, both narrow-body and wide-body, were grounded for a long time because the government didn’t have the money to buy engines and spare parts to get them airworthy again.
But all that has changed now as nearly 20 grounded aircraft are being restored and returned to service. But that’s not it. The airline expects 30 more planes, including several Boeing 777 on short term leases to be delivered over the next 12 months starting next week.
The airline is also in talks to lease more aircraft, so its fleet can be expected to look much larger even before it receives aircraft from its firm orders. Together, the leased aircraft are expected to increase fleet size by 25%. Air India hasn’t seen this kind of fleet rebuilds in years.
Focus on long-term goals
Wilson and his team have a long way to go to fix an airline marred by years of neglect. But they seem aware of the challenge and ready to face it head-on.
We have seen the new owners take initiatives to improve the soft product, hire new talent and make an attempt to change the working culture within the company. Still, there’s a lot to fix, as evidenced by frequent customer complaints about broken seats and in-flight entertainment systems. But solving all these problems will take time. Jain Aviation Consultants’ UK-based Rishi Jain says we shouldn’t expect the Tatas to fix these problems overnight. He said to Simple Flying,
“Air India now has all the money to do what it wants, but the Tatas need time to sort out all their problems. They go to great lengths to repair the seats, IFE and aircraft interiors, but are constrained by global supply chain issues. And although they have started to work on these issues, we can expect significant changes in 12 to 18 months.”
Photo: Getty Images
Indeed, the airline has embarked on a five-year turnaround plan to at least capture 30% of India domestic and international market sharewhich means Wilson and his team will have their hands full for the foreseeable future.
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- IATA/ICAO Code:
- Type of airline:
- Full service carrier
- Delhi-Indira Gandhi International Airport
- Founding year:
- star alliance
- Campbell Wilson