Air India Enters Record Deal To Buy Nearly 500 New Airliners

The massive buy will support over one million American jobs across 44 states, according to President Biden.

Air India’s planned purchase of nearly 500 new airliners are part of a plan to update and expand its fleet. [Credit: Shutterstock]

Air India, a unit of the Tata Sons industrial conglomerate, said it has signed letters of intent with Boeing and Airbus to buy 470 new aircraft. The deal, which is part of a broad program to update the airline’s fleet, marks a record for a single order by a carrier.

The deal is a boon to the top aircraft makers, certain engine manufacturers, and the aircraft industry’s vast network of component and equipment suppliers.

The New Delhi company said the order includes 40 Airbus A350s, 210 Airbus A320 and A321 Neos, 20 Boeing 787s, 10 Boeing 777-9s, and 190 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Air India also said the A350 aircraft will be powered by Rolls-Royce engines and the 777s and 787s will use GE Aerospace engines. The remaining aircraft, all single-aisle models, will be powered by engines from CFM International.

Air India’s announcement also resonated in the political realm. For example, President Joe Biden spoke yesterday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India about what the White House called “the historic agreement for Air India to purchase over 200 American-made aircraft from Boeing.” Biden said the sale will support over one million American jobs across 44 states.

“Air India is on a large transformation journey across safety, customer service, technology, engineering, network and human resources,” said N. Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons and Air India. He said a “modern, efficient fleet is a fundamental component of this transformation” and a major step toward the company’s goal of offering world-class service for global travelers.

The new aircraft will modernize and expand the airline’s fleet while providing opportunities for Indian aviation professionals and spurring the country’s “aviation ecosystem,” the airline said.

Air India said it expects the first of the new aircraft to enter service late this year, with most coming online beginning in mid-2025. The company also said it has separately begun taking delivery of 11 leased 777s and 25 A320s aircraft to accelerate its expansion.

The new aircraft will come with a new interior design and will complement the airline’s previously announced plan to refit its existing 787 and 777 aircraft with new seats and entertainment systems. The first of the refitted aircraft are slated to enter service in mid-2024, Air India said.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

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