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Air India to Make the Largest Purchase of Jetliners in Aviation History with Airbus and Boeing

Mumbai, India - Air India has signed agreements with Airbus SE and Boeing Co. for what could become the largest purchase of jetliners in commercial aviation history. The airline aims to reinvent itself with a fuel-efficient fleet that can take on local low-cost rivals and powerful Gulf airlines like Emirates.

The airline has agreed on the outlines of the accord with the two planemakers and may formally announce the deal as early as next week. Airbus is set to win about 250 orders and commitments, made up of 210 of the A320 single-aisle family models and 40 A350s wide-bodies. Boeing has secured about 290 possible purchases, with 190 737 Max aircraft and the option for 50 more, as well as 20 787 Dreamliners and the same number as a possible top-up, alongside 10 777x aircraft.

Air India and its parent, Tata Group, spent months negotiating the massive transaction, which should allow the carrier to upgrade service and reliability while lowering fuel costs. It’s also an attempt for the airline, founded under Tata in the 1930s, to win back traffic from Gulf rivals such as Emirates or Qatar Airways.

Picture: Kumaon Jagran

Tata bought Air India last year in the most high-profile privatization under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and is now consolidating its aviation business, which includes four airline brands. Tata said last year it would merge Air India with Vistara, which it jointly holds with Singapore Airlines Ltd. The deal is also a big win for Airbus and Boeing, both of which have local ventures with the Tata Group.

The purchase further cements Airbus’s lead in narrowbody aircraft, but also gives the European manufacturer an important win in the widebody space that’s historically been the domain of Boeing. Airlines around the world are upgrading and refreshing their fleets to cash in on the rapid rebound in travel after the Covid pandemic, and Air India's order is a major step in that direction.

Officials for Airbus, Boeing, and Air India declined to comment on the negotiations, which are confidential. The final tally could still change due to the complicated structure of the deal, which is made up of firm orders, memorandums of understanding, and letters of intent.

With the travel upswing gathering pace after China ended many of its harsh coronavirus measures and opened its international borders, airlines are ramping up their long-haul capacity. Air India's latest order is a clear indication that the airline is poised to take advantage of the rebound in travel and return to its former glory.

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