Air India close to finalise deal of 50 Boeing 737 MAX planes for Air India Express


Tata Group-owned Air India is close to finalising a deal with US aircraft maker Boeing for 50 narrow-body Boeing 737 MAX planes for its international budget arm Air India Express, according to sources.

The sources familiar with the development said the deal will be part of a large aircraft order that Air India has been discussing with Boeing Co and Airbus SE since the beginning of this fiscal.

Loss-making Air India, which was taken over by the Tata group in January this year, plans to triple its fleet over the next five years, they added.

As part of consolidating its airline business, the Tata group has also announced the merger of its domestic budget arm AirAsia India, which operates the Airbus A320 fleet, with Air India Express.

Currently, Air India Express has 24 Boeing 737 planes in its fleet.

The sources said that a meeting between Air India and Boeing officials is also likely to take place on Monday to further discuss the aircraft deal.

“Air India has almost finalised the deal with Boeing to acquire 50 Boeing 737 MAX planes for Air India Express,” one of the sources said.

Air India declined to comment.

According to the sources, Air India has been discussing this deal with Boeing for quite some time now and these aircraft were earlier to be delivered to China.

The airline is expecting to get a significant discount for these planes, they added.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the rising number of cases in China, Chinese authorities have put in place various curbs, including on travel, as a result of which many of the country’s carriers are going slow on their fleet expansion.

Last month, Air India Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Campbell Wilson said the airline is in discussions with Boeing, Airbus and engine manufacturers for a “historic” order of next-generation aircraft.

On December 11, media reports said that Air India was close to placing an order for some 500 planes with Boeing and Airbus.

An Air India official said the discussions for the large aircraft order are still in progress and the quantum of the order has not been decided yet.

The order for new planes by Air India is likely to be announced in the coming weeks, the official added.

On December 8, Air India announced plans to refurbish its legacy wide-body fleet, comprising 40 Boeing planes, at an investment of over USD 400 million (about Rs 3,295 crore).

The company has mandated London-based product design companies JPA Design and Trendworks to assist with the cabin interior design elements of the refurbishment exercise.