Air India, which was privatised earlier on in January 2022 and finally has a CEO on board in Campbell Wilson, has made some big moves today with respect to adding aircraft to the fleet it already operates. What is unclear is the duration of this move, though, so I’d like to believe this is a short-term fleet augmentation move rather than a more permanent addition to the fleet.
Air India to lease 30 jets, including five wide-body aircraft.
Air India last enhanced its fleet in 2016, when it signed on to bring 14 brand-new A320neo into its fleet via a leasing transaction with ALAFCO Aviation Lease and Finance company of Kuwait. The deal was signed in 2016, and the aircraft started to be inducted into the fleet in February 2017. Another 13 A320neo aircraft were also added via a lease with GECAPS and CIT. The entire induction of the A320neo aircraft was completed by March 2019.
Now, Air India is back in the market and signed a new letter of intent for more aircraft to be inducted into their fleet. The airline will induct twenty-one Airbus A320neos, four Airbus A321neos and five Boeing B777-200LRs into its fleet in the coming months.
- 21 Airbus A320neos, which will join Air India’s fleet starting the second half of 2023
- Four Airbus A321neos will join Air India’s fleet beginning the first quarter of 2023
- Five Boeing 777-200LRs will join Air India’s fleet between December 2022 and March 2023
These new aircraft will increase the airline’s fleet by over 25%. Not counting the ten long-grounded narrow-body and six wide-body aircraft that have been returned to service in recent months, these new aircraft mark the first significant fleet expansion since Air India’s acquisition by the Tata Group earlier this year.
Air India is in the final stages of negotiating an order for at least 200 aircraft, including both narrow- and wide bodies. However, the airline does not expect to take any of these aircraft before 2024 due to limited delivery slots.
Air India’s wide body lease to come from Delta (possibly)
There has been speculation about Air India’s addition of 5 Boeing 777-200LR widebody aircraft into the fleet, all while Air India tries to offload its own Boeing 777-200LR, which has three in number. Air India uses the B777-200LR fleet to service its long-haul operations to San Francisco from India.
While in the long run, Air India is working on a project to bring in the A350 aircraft into its fleet, as it has also sounded off internal recruitment for the aircraft, and the details are being worked out, for the short term, it seems to need aircraft to meet the demand between India and the United States. There is an opportunity because other carriers from the US side cannot access the Russian airspace, thereby postponing their plans to operate from the US West Coast.
While Air India does not confirm this, all signals indicate a lease signed with Delta. Air India announced that Mumbai would see the addition of flights to San Francisco and both of the New York area’s international airports, Newark Liberty and John F Kennedy. At the same time, Bangalore will receive a 3x weekly service to San Francisco with these aircraft. These aircraft will result in Air India offering Premium Economy haul flights for the first time.
Delta seems to be the only airline which recently had Boeing 777-200LRs, that were retired during the pandemic. Delta had completed the conversion of its ten 777-200LRs, having outfitted them in the new configuration, with 28 Delta One Suites with closed doors, 48 Premium Economy Seats and 220 Economy Class seats. While all these aircraft were going to be dispatched to be converted to freighters, that plan seems to be postponed for now, with more passenger miles waiting to be clocked on these aircraft. It is rumoured that the aircraft would be leased for two years.
If the aircraft are inducted into Air India’s fleet on an as-is basis (of course, with a new paint job), then Air India might finally become a treat to fly.
Commenting on the fleet expansion, Mr Campbell Wilson, CEO & Managing Director, Air India, said,
After a long time without significant growth, Air India is delighted to resume expanding its fleet and global footprint. These new aircraft and existing aircraft being returned to service address an immediate need for more capacity and connectivity and mark a strong step forward. Air India has exciting expansion and renewal plans, of which these new aircraft are just the beginning.
Air India’s narrow-body fleet currently stands at 70 aircraft, of which 54 are in service; the remaining 16 will progressively return to service by early 2023. Similarly, Air India’s wide-body fleet currently stands at 43 aircraft, of which 33 are operational. The rest will return to service by early 2023.
Air India will lease 30 aircraft, including 21 Airbus A320neos, 4 Airbus A321neos, and 5 Boeing 777-200LRs. These planes should start being inducted into Air India’s fleet as of late 2022, besides other aircraft that have been brought back after extended groundings. Using the Boeing 777s, Air India intends to join up Mumbai with SFO, JFK and EWR, and also offer Premium Economy for the first time.
What do you make of the Air India fleet augmentation plans?
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