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Blockbuster: Air India’s twin deals with Boeing, Airbus mark largest aircraft order ever


Air India has become synonymous with a number of aviation industry themes during the past few decades.

Unfortunately for the airline, those have mostly been for things like uneven service, huge financial losses and a mediocre product.

Now, however, the flag carrier of India can claim a new superlative: the largest aircraft order ever made.

Air India jolted the aviation industry Tuesday with massive airplane orders that combined for a whopping 470 new airplanes.

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The Wall Street Journal estimates that — at previously published list prices for the aircraft — the deals – split between Boeing and Airbus – would be worth a staggering $85 billion.

It’s likely that Air India negotiated a price far below that amount, but the scope of the order is a whopper nonetheless — and one that the Journal says surpasses by dollar value Emirates’ 2013 order for more than 100 Boeing 777X planes.

Of Air India’s 470-plane order, 220 are set to come from Boeing: 190 737 MAX jets, 20 787 Dreamliners and 10 of the jetmaker’s delayed new 777X line. The deal also includes options for 50 further aircraft.

The order is a big boost for Boeing amid its recent struggles, ranking as the company’s third-largest sale ever in terms of value and second-largest of all time if ranked by the number of aircraft, according to The Associated Press.

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From Airbus, Air India plans to take 210 of Airbus’ A320neo family of narrow-body planes – a workhorse for many domestic airlines – as well as 40 Airbus A350 wide-body jets that typically are used for long-haul international flights.

The deal also is considered a win for Airbus, which — aside from the big order — landed a deal from an airline that has long favored Boeing planes.

“Today is a historic moment for India, for Air India and for Airbus,” Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury was quoted by AP as saying on a call discussing the order, adding that the number of planes bought by the carrier “demonstrates the appetite for growth in the Indian aviation industry. It’s the fastest growing in the world.”

As for Air India, the blockbuster orders come as the carrier hopes to succeed with a turnaround after countless others at the airline have failed.

Air India was finally privatized last year, bought by Indian conglomerate Tata Group after India’s government struggled for years to find a private buyer for the perennially loss-making company.

Neither of the orders announced Tuesday is yet firm, and it was not immediately clear when the new planes might be slated for delivery. But it appears to mark a determined attempt by the airline’s new owners to put Air India on a different path than the one it’s been on so far this century.

Reuters describes it as part of a strategy to “recapture a solid share of trips between India’s diaspora and cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai that are currently dominated by foreign rivals such as Emirates.”

For now, there’s at least a hint of hope Air India might be able to execute the turnaround that has long eluded it.

Stay tuned …

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