Air India Ltd. is considering ordering as many as 300 narrowbody jets, according to people familiar with the matter, in what could be one of the largest orders in commercial aviation history as the formerly state-run airline looks to overhaul its fleet under new ownership.
The carrier may order Airbus SE’s A320neo family jets or Boeing Co.’s 737 Max models, or a mix of both, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are confidential.
A deal for 300 737 Max-10 jets could be worth $40.5 billion at sticker prices, although discounts are common in such large purchases.
Production and delivery of 300 planes would likely take years or even more than a decade. Airbus builds about 50 narrowbody jets in a month, with plans to increase that to 65 by the middle of 2023, and 75 by 2025.
Representatives for Air India and Boeing declined to comment. An Airbus representative said the company is always in contact with existing and potential customers, but any discussions are confidential.
Air India has not bought a single aircraft since 2006 when it placed orders for purchasing 111 aircraft — 68 from the US-based aircraft manufacturer Boeing and 43 from European aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
The Tata Group took control of Air India on January 27 after successfully winning the bid for the airline on October 8 last year.
According to Air India’s website, the airline has a total of 49 wide-bodied aircraft – 18 Boeing B777, 4 Boeing B747, and 27 Boeing B787 – in its fleet. The carrier has 79 narrow-bodied planes in its fleet too.
Air India’s owner Tata Group is also close to ordering Airbus A350 long-range jets that are capable of flying as far as the US West Coast from New Delhi, Bloomberg News reported this month.
Once known for its premium services and advertisements featuring Bollywood stars, the airline still has lucrative landing slots at most major airports, but it faces competition from foreign airlines with nonstop services to India, as well as carriers that fly via hubs in the Middle East.
Earlier in the day, Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer said that the airline is “reorganizing itself” under the Tata Group and will look at refurbishing its fleet with new aircraft.
The carrier is said to be considering an order for the European company’s A350 wide-bodied planes. If that happens, it would be its first aircraft order since 2006 by the recently privatized airline. It would also make Air India the first Indian airline to order the A350, which is gaining popularity among global carriers for fuel-efficiency.
Earlier this week, Air India sent a memo to its pilots enlisting interest in training for the A350. Tata Group executives haven’t commented on its plans.
Airbus’ top executives are among the hundreds of airline and aerospace company bosses who are in Doha, attending the two-day annual general meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).