Air India has finalised plans to induct 30 new aircraft to its fleet over the next 15 months, in what is the airline’s first major fleet expansion in more than five years. The Tata Group-owned airline has signed lease agreements to bring in 25 narrow-bodied and five wide-bodied planes progressively from December.
The carrier said it will bring in 21 Airbus A320neo planes, four Airbus A321neo planes and five Boeing 777-200LR wide-bodied planes progressively from December. The wide-bodied planes will have a Premium Economy offering — a product Air India will offer for the first time. Premium Economy is currently offered in India by Tata-Singapore Airlines joint-venture airline Vistara.
When do these planes start coming in and what is Air India’s current fleet size?
In a statement, Air India said that these new aircraft, which will enter service from late 2022, will increase the airline’s fleet by over 25 per cent. Not counting the 10 long-grounded narrow-body and six wide-body aircraft that have been returned to service in recent months, these new aircraft mark the first major fleet expansion since Air India’s acquisition by the Tata Group earlier this year, it added. Currently, Air India has 70 narrow-bodied aircraft, of which 54 are in service, and 43 wide-bodied planes, of which 33 are operational. The grounded planes are expected to return to service early next year, the airline said.
The Boeing 777-200LRs will join the fleet between December 2022 and March 2023, and be deployed on routes from metro cities to the US, Air India said. Mumbai will see the addition of flights to San Francisco as well as to the New York international airports, Newark Liberty and John F Kennedy, while Bengaluru will receive a thrice-a-week service to San Francisco. More importantly, the narrow-bodied fleet, which will start coming in next year, will strengthen Air India’s competitive position against its rivals, including IndiGo, Vistara, SpiceJet, AkasaAir and GoFirst, particularly given that the airline has seen its domestic market share fall steadily over the past several years.
The fleet expansion marks the beginning of one of Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran’s core aims to upgrade and modernise the Air India fleet. In his maiden address to Air India employees in February after its acquisition by the Tata Group, Chandrasekaran had said upgrading and modernising the fleet and hospitality were among the core areas where the airline will focus under the new management. “We will upgrade our fleet. We will bring modernity to our fleet. We will bring a new fleet, we will expand our outreach… We will not only increase the number of aircraft that we will have, wide body and narrow body, (but) we will fly to many destinations,” he had said.