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July 25, 2024
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Ending years of speculation, IndiGo, the Delhi-based low-cost airline, on Thursday placed a firm order for 30 A350-900 aircraft and has “purchase rights” for an additional 70 A350 family aircraft at its discretion for possible future needs under certain conditions.

Delivery of the 30 aircraft is expected to start in 2027, and the exact configuration of these aircraft will be decided at a later stage.

IndiGo agreed to place an order for 30 Firm A350-900 aircraft, which will enable IndiGo to spread its wings further and expand its network. From the various Indian metros, IndiGo will be able to connect to the world. The aircraft will be powered by Rolls Royce’s Trent XWB engine. The mission capability of this aircraft coupled with the efficiency of the Trent XWB engine will offer IndiGo unprecedented optionality as it embarks on the next stage of its wonderful journey of addressing the rapidly evolving needs of the Indian customer and our nation,” the airline said in a statement.

The statement adds that the new order will bring the strategic relationship between IndiGo and Airbus to an unprecedented level in terms of depth, breadth, and size. “For the relationship between IndiGo and Rolls Royce, this marks the beginning of a new, long and fruitful relationship,” the airline said.

The agreement was signed at InterGlobe’s Corporate Headquarters by IndiGo’s CEO  Pieter Elbers,  Benoît de Saint-Exupéry, Airbus’ Executive Vice President of Commercial Aircraft, and  Ewen McDonald, Rolls Royce’s Chief Customer Officer – Civil Aerospace.  V. Sumantran, Chairman of IndiGo’s Board, and  Christian Scherer, Airbus’ CEO of Commercial Aircraft, were also present. 

Commenting on the order, Elbers said, “Today’s historic moment marks a new chapter for IndiGo and will further shape the future of the airline and for Indian aviation at the same time. For IndiGo, after successfully pioneering the Indian skies with an unprecedented journey, its fleet of 30 Airbus A350-900 aircraft will allow the airline to embark on its next phase of becoming one of the leading global aviation players. At IndiGo, we take pride in being India’s preferred airline and for offering connectivity to our customers, in and with India. This reaffirms IndiGo’s belief in, and commitment to, the growth of India, and in our strategic partnership with Airbus.”

This is IndiGo’s second aircraft order in less than a year. In June last year, IndiGo placed a firm order for 500 Airbus aircraft, which will ensure a steady stream of aircraft deliveries for the airline between 2030 and 2035.

IndiGo is the second Indian airline after Air India (which has placed orders for widebody) in less than a year. This is a record for India, with two airlines placing orders for Widebody, as these orders come after over a decade. In January 2006, Air India placed an order for 68 jets, including 8 Boeing 777-200LR, 15 Boeing 777-300ER, 18 Boeing 737-800, and 27 Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners.

IndiGo stepped into the widebody aircraft space by wet leasing Turkish Airlines Boeing 777 by confirming leasing of aircraft in December 2022.

IndiGo’s latest order comes as the airline looks to expand its domestic and international network. In an interaction with AirInsight in November last year, Elbers had said, We are expanding to different cities. Suppose Singapore Airlines can fly to more than ten destinations in India. Why should we limit ourselves as an Indian carrier to only fly from one destination in India to Singapore? We now fly to (from) seven (cities in India).”

Benoît de Saint-Exupéry, Airbus EVP Sales, Commercial Aircraft said: “This is an exciting new chapter in our close partnership with IndiGo. The airline has revolutionised Indian domestic air travel with the A320neo Family by making flying more accessible to more people. With the A350 selection, Indigo is now embarking on further opening the world to India. We will support the airline to take this pioneering and strategic step. A big thank you to the IndiGo team for putting their trust in Airbus once again.”

Satyendra Pandey, Managing Partner at Aairavat Technology & Transport Ventures Private Ltd, terms IndiGo’s A350 order confirmation of the airline’s strategic shift.

It also makes for interesting competition dynamics with Air India inducting a similar fleet type. On the aircraft choice itself, the A350 with its capacity, range and operating economics adds complexity to the IndiGo operation in more ways than one. Complexity that has to be managed in a way that is profit accretive. And complexity that has to be managed where it does not permanently lead to a higher cost base,” he says.

Pandey thinks that the A350 order is also interesting, given the XLR orders by IndiGo, which are to start delivering in the next 15-18 months. “It would clearly indicate that IndiGo will plan to deploy A350s on denser and/or longer routes. But with that comes intense competition. The jury is out in how IndiGo will spec the A350s. But, given the lack of success stores in the low-cost long-haul space, this decision will force IndiGo to rethink the entire product strategy including domestic product,” he says, adding that overall (it is) a very interesting development in the India market.

author avatar
Ashwini Phadnis
Former Senior Deputy Editor at Business Line (aka The Hindu Business Line)

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