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June 19, 2024
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Airbus is unwilling to say how many, if any, aircraft Air India has taken on option, as part of its bumper order for 210 A320neo family and forty A350s that were announced on Tuesday.

The airline’s Chief Commercial and Transformation Officer, Nipun Agarwal, said on LinkedIn on Wednesday that Air India not just ordered 470 aircraft with Airbus and Boeing, but also has options on another 370.

Boeing specified the order as 190 Boeing MAX 8s and -10s plus fifty options, twenty 787-9s plus twenty options, and ten 777-9s. Rolls-Royce said in a media statement that the Airbus order included options for twenty Trent XWB-97 engines for the A350-1000, which would indicate Air India has ten options. If Agarwal’s comments are correct, Air India would have options or purchase rights for 360 to 370 more aircraft from both OEMs.

Asked during the 2022 results press conference today what is the share of Airbus, CEO Guillaume Faury had little to say about options. “I am not going to answer this question. Options and purchase rights are things we are not disclosing, not in a systematic way, at least. We have communicated what are likely to be firm orders. I think 250 planes is a very sizeable amount already.”

The first Airbus aircraft to be delivered to Air India will be some A350-900s, of which the airline has ordered just six plus 34 -1000s. The -900s are more or less ‘white tails’, or aircraft that are currently in storage without a firm customer. A spokesperson said that there are a number of aircraft ordered by Aeroflot that can no longer be delivered since sanctions have been imposed on Russia a year ago. The A350 production list identifies MSN554, 558, and 585 as former Aeroflot aircraft. One of those already had the Aeroflot livery and was spotted on the apron in Toulouse on Wednesday.

That Air India has announced only Letters of Intent with Boeing and Airbus instead of firm orders could be an indication that the carrier might not just place direct orders with the two airframers but also source the aircraft from lessors. An order for 470 aircraft would heavily burden the balance sheet of Air India and its parent Tata Sons, so reducing this through operating leases or sale and leasebacks are obvious instruments. The former would mean that Air India would take aircraft that are already on order from lessors, for which several have delivery slots in the coming years.

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Richard Schuurman
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016. Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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