In a major boost to the aviation sector in India, Tata Sons today announced that its carrier Air India has signed a letter of intent to buy 250 aircraft from European manufacturer Airbus, including 210 narrow-body and 40 wide-body A350 planes.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron also attended an online event on the launch of the new Air India-Airbus Partnership.
“We have built a very good relationship with Airbus. Today, I am happy to announce that we have signed a letter of intent to acquire 250 aircraft from Airbus,” said N Chandrasekaran, chairman, Tata Sons.
"The wide-body aircraft will be used for ultra-long flights," said Chandrasekaran.
Apart from Airbus, the Tata-owned airline has also placed an order for 220 passenger aircraft from US-based global aircraft maker Boeing, including 737 Max aircraft and 787 Dreamliners. The company could soon make an official announcement on this.
With this, Air India’s recently signed agreements with Airbus SE and Boeing Co. stand at a total of 540 jetliners. The deal is the largest bulk purchase in India's commercial aviation history.
Airbus has got about 250 orders --- 210 A320 single-aisle family models and 40 A350s wide-bodies. Boeing has secured orders for aircraft, which include 737 Max aircraft and 787 Dreamliners.
Congratulating Air India and Airbus for the landmark agreement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the deal reflects the deepening ties between India and France, and the success and aspirations of India's civil aviation sector.
The PM said many new opportunities are opening up in aerospace manufacturing under India's 'Make in India - Make for the World' vision. “Whether it is the issue of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, or global food security and health security, India and France together are making a positive contribution,” he said.
“Through our Regional Connectivity Scheme (UDAN), remote parts of the country are being connected through air connectivity, which is boosting the economic & social development of people,” said Modi.
The PM said India can become a “Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO)” hub for the aviation sector in the region. “Indian aviation sector will need more than 2,000 aircraft in the next 15 years,” said PM Modi, adding that the Air India and Airbus deal shows a strengthening of the strategic partnership between India and France.
The Tata Sons chairman’s remarks today echos his statements made two days ago. On February 12, 2023, in interaction with Fortune India, Chandrasekaran said the group will keep “Air India as the flagship brand” and that the airline is on its way to turning profitable. Tata group will build Air India as the “mother brand” of its airline business, which will have both full-service as well as low-cost carriers, he said.
He said the fleet size of the airline will be enhanced over a period of time. “So we really have a big aspiration for Air India. We will scale it up….. It is a big opportunity. We will expand internationally and also domestically,” he said.
He said Tata has a big plan for Air India, but it will take time. “Just to get one issue fixed takes months. The machines were not looked after for a long time and systems are not there," he said.
Notably, the 154-year-old group, which founded Air India during the time of JRD Tata, had acquired debt-burdened Air India for ₹18,000 crore in January 2022.