Air India Ltd has scripted history in the aviation space, with the biggest aircraft order ever as the Tata group airline announced to buy 540 aircraft from U.S. aircraft maker Boeing and French aerospace major Airbus. While the announcement regarding Airbus' 250 aircraft came during an online event during the day on Tuesday, in which French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also participated, the confirmation on the purchase of 290 Boeing planes came late at night. 

U.S. President Joe Biden hailed the Air India-Boeing deal, saying it reflects the strength of the U.S.-India economic partnership. "I am proud to announce today the purchase of over 200 American-made aircraft through a historic agreement between Air India and Boeing. This announcement also reflects the strength of the U.S.-India economic partnership. Together with Prime Minister Modi, I look forward to deepening our partnership even further as we continue to confront shared global challenges—creating a more secure and prosperous future for all of our citizens."

On the landmark deal, PM Modi held a telephone conversation with Biden, and said the agreement between Air India and Boeing is a "shining example of mutually beneficial cooperation", which will help create new job opportunities in both countries. The PM also invited Boeing and other U.S. companies to make use of the opportunities arising due to the expanding civil aviation sector in India.

The Air India-Boeing pact comprises the order for fuel-efficient planes i.e. 190 737 MAX, 20 787 Dreamliner and 10 777X aeroplanes. The agreement includes options for 50 additional 737 MAXs and 20 787-9s. Boeing said the order will not only be the largest Boeing order in South Asia but also a historic milestone in the aerospace company's nearly 90-year partnership with the carrier. 

Tata Sons and Air India Chairman N Chandrasekaran said Air India is on a large transformation journey across safety, customer service, technology, engineering, network and human resources. "Modern, efficient fleet is a fundamental component of this transformation. This order is an important step in realising Air India's ambition, articulated in its Vihaan.AI transformation program, to offer a world-class proposition serving global travellers with an Indian heart," he said.

The new aircraft will modernise Air India's fleet and onboard products, and dramatically expand its network. The deal is also expected to provide many career opportunities for Indian aviation professionals.

As per Air India, the first of the new aircraft will enter service in late-2023, with the bulk arriving from mid-2025 onwards. Air India, meanwhile, has already started taking delivery of 11 leased B777 and 25 A320 aircraft to expand its network.

"Air India's selection of Boeing's family of passenger jets shows their confidence in our products and services in the world's fastest-growing aviation market," said Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "With the industry-leading fuel efficiency of the 737 MAX, 787 Dreamliner and 777X, Air India is well positioned to achieve its expansion plans and become a world-class global airline with an Indian heart."

The US company said the 737 MAX will provide flexibility across Air India's domestic and international network while reducing fuel use and emissions by 20% compared to the aeroplanes it replaces.

Earlier on Tuesday, Air India announced the order of 250 Airbus aircraft to boost its domestic and international operations, including 140 A320neo and 70 A321neo single-aisle aircraft as well as 34 A350-1000 and six A350-900 wide-body jets. Airbus said it will mark a new era for India as the all-new, long-range aircraft will celebrate its debut in the Indian market.

“Airbus has been a longstanding partner of Air India, and these new aircraft will play an important part in delivering Vihaan.AI, Air India’s comprehensive transformation and growth strategy,” said Campbell Wilson, CEO and MD, Air India. 

Christian Scherer, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer and Head of International termed it a historic moment, saying, "India is on the verge of an international air travel revolution and we are honoured that our partnership with the Tatas and our aircraft solutions will write that new chapter for the country’s air-connectivity.”

As India’s economy expands at a rapid pace, the demand for travel is also expected to increase dramatically, prompting airlines to ramp up fleets. As per the latest report by aviation consulting and research firm CAPA India, Indian carriers will place orders for 1,500-1,700 aircraft over the next 24+ months because the Indian market, in the post-COVID era, is attracting global attention as arguably the most promising aviation market.

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