Air India is close to ordering the Airbus A350 to add the type to its fleet. The widebody could join the fleet as early as the first quarter of 2023, AirInsight has learned following reports on Bloomberg.
In January, Air India was privatized and returned to the founder group, Tata Sons. In March, Airbus brought its long-range flagship, the A350 to India and Southeast Asia on a demo tour and sales campaign. During a media briefing at Wings India, Airbus President and Managing Director of India and South Asia, Remi Maillard, said that Airbus wished to grow its A350 market share in India.
The A350-900 made a trip to Mumbai as well, the home of the Tata conglomerate. Ratan Tata, the Chairman Emeritus of the group, was pictured hearing out Airbus executives as they made the pitch for the A350 to Air India. Their efforts might soon be coming to bear fruit, as there are strong indications that Air India might be moving forward with an order for A350 aircraft.
A350-900 MSN002 toured India in March as part of a sales campaign in India and Southeast Asia. (Ajay Awtaney)
Currently, the long-haul operations of Air India are all with the 787 and the 777 aircraft of Boeing, and there is no Airbus wide-body aircraft in India at present. Jet Airways was the customer of the A330 but had since folded up. Air India has not bought a single aircraft since 2006 when it had placed orders for purchasing 111 aircraft, 68 from Boeing (including the 787-8) and 43 from Airbus. These aircraft deliveries continued till 2018.
Note to cockpit crew
Air India has notified its senior cockpit crew about the addition of the aircraft to the fleet and sought their interest in participating in conversion training for the new aircraft. They have been asked to respond by June 20 and informed that they will be ineligible for training on another aircraft type for two years. The memo state:
Air India is in the process of augmenting its existing fleet with the A350 type of aircraft with the Entry into Service. You are requested to give your acceptance of your willingness to be taken up for Conversion training on the A350 aircraft.
AirInsight has talked to a few Air India senior cockpit crew members all of whom confirmed such a memo was floated inside the organization. Air India expects the aircraft to enter service in Q1 2023. The size of the deal is not confirmed, but it is anywhere between twenty to fifty jets.
Saddled with aircraft
For Airbus as well as Air India, the order could not be better timed. Airbus is saddled with aircraft already manufactured as well as slots that have opened up due to sanctions on Russia, as well as the ongoing legal tussle with Qatar Airways with respect to the A350.
Aeroflot is a customer of the A350-900, out of which seven were delivered to them and another thirteen were due but cannot be delivered anymore because of the sanctions. Turkish Airlines recently confirmed that it will take delivery of six A350s originally ordered for Aeroflot.
Qatar Airways, on the other hand, the launch customer of both the A350-900 and A350-1000, has twenty A350-1000s due for delivery, but they have refused to engage with Airbus on these aircraft on the back of paint quality issues. The London High Court recently granted permission to Airbus to sell aircraft manufactured for Qatar Airways to other customers.
Tata Sons honcho N Chandrasekaran has previously been reported to visit the Airbus headquarters in Toulouse. Tata executives on secondment to Air India have also recently visited the Aircraft Interiors Expo in Hamburg examining interior choices for their aircraft.
Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe.