In its first major fleet expansion since the acquisition by the Tata group, Air India will induct 30 leased aircraft from Airbus SE and Boeing Co. These aircraft will result in Air India offering premium economy haul flights for the first time. The airline plans to use them for domestic routes and short-haul global destinations.

Air India has signed leases and letters of intent for 25 Airbus narrow-body and 5 Boeing wide-body aircraft. These aircraft, which will enter service in late 2022, will increase its fleet by over 25%, says the company.

The aircraft being leased include 21 Airbus A320neos, four Airbus A321neos and five Boeing B777-200LRs. "Not counting the 10 long-grounded narrow-body and 6 wide-body aircraft that have been returned to service in recent months, these new aircraft mark the first major fleet expansion since Air India’s acquisition by the Tata Group earlier this year," says an Air India statement.

The B777-200LRs will join the fleet between December 2022 and March 2023 and will be deployed on routes from Indian metro cities to the United States.

Following Air India's fleet expansion, Mumbai will see the addition of flights to San Francisco and both of the New York area’s international airports -- Newark Liberty and John F Kennedy. Bengaluru will receive a 3x weekly service to San Francisco.

The 4 A321 aircraft are expected to join in the first quarter of the calendar year 2023, while the 21 A320 will be inducted in the second half of 2023. They will be deployed in domestic sectors as well as to short-haul international destinations.

The decision marks the rebuilding exercise of the former state-owned carrier after a long time; the airline was earlier struggling amid huge debts.

The newly-appointed CEO of Air India, Campbell Wilson says Air India has exciting expansion and renewal plans, and that these new aircraft are just the start. "These new aircraft, together with existing aircraft being returned to service, address an immediate need for more capacity and connectivity, and mark a strong step forward."

Air India’s narrow-body and wide-body fleets currently stand at 70 and 43 aircraft, respectively. Among narrow-body aircraft, 54 are in service and the remaining 16 will progressively return to service by early 2023. In the wide-body fleet, 33 are operational but the rest will return to service by early 2023.

The airline is on a revival mode since the takeover by Tatas and the joining of the new CEO. Last month, Air India decided to extend the services of some of its pilots on a contract basis for five years after they reach retirement age. These pilots will work with a full-service career for five years after retirement at 58, till the age of 65 years. The decision was taken to meet Air India’s workforce requirements in view of an increasing number of aircraft in its fleet.

The airline has reportedly earmarked $1.9 billion to expand Air India's operations in the next two years. This will mark the complete overhaul of the iconic airline, which up until last year was standing on a shaky foundation amid mounting losses and huge debt. The government sold its entire stake in Air India to Talace, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Tata Sons, on 27 January 2022. The sale marked the national carrier’s return to the salt-to-software conglomerate after a span of 69 years.

Separately, the airline has started vacating a number of Air India offices presently housed in government-owned premises across the country. Tata says the largest base of staff, located in Delhi’s Airlines House, Safdarjung Complex, GSD Complex and IGI Terminal One, will move to an interim office space in Gurugram, before relocating to campus at the newly-constructed Vatika One-On-One development in early 2023.

With this, the airline’s regionalised organisation structure will also be disbanded and replaced with a centralised one. Besides Air India, the Vatika One-on-One campus will also house Air India Express and Air Asia India.

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