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June 19, 2024
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UPDATE JULY 7 – The 2023 Paris Airshow kicked off with the biggest single order in the history of Airbus for 500 planes from IndiGo. Although some previous A350 and A380 widebody orders will surpass this one in value, this “landmark order” for A320neo family aircraft beats those on the number of aircraft. It will double the size of the Indian airline by the end of the decade. IndiGo gives Airbus its biggest-ever aircraft order.

IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers announced the order in a packed Airbus chalet in the presence of top management from Airbus and his own airline, which is owned by Interglobe. Elbers didn’t specify the breakdown by the version of the A320neo family, except for ruling out the A319neo. He has the flexibility to select the A320neo, A320neo, A321LR, or A321XLR, which are all either already in service or – in the case of the XLR – will come in 2024. However, in the June Orders & Deliveries tables that were released on July 7, Airbus specified the types as 125 A320neo’s and 375 A321neo’s. 

The 500 aircraft will bring the total number of aircraft ordered from Airbus to 1.330. All previous orders since it was launched in 2005 add up to 830, of which 482 still need to be delivered until the end of this decade. The latest order will be delivered between 2030 and 2035. IndiGo has to confirm the engine choice but has plenty of time to make a decision. It currently operates both the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan and the CFM LEAP.

Too early to predict 2035 fleet size

Elbers said it is too early to say how many aircraft IndiGo will operate in 2035. “With the outstanding present fleet order, there is still 482 to be delivered between today and the end of the decade. That means the company will expect to double in size. This new order will help us even further well into the next decade. We have a level of flexibility when it comes to the precise duration of the (sale and leaseback) leases and engagement of the current fleet. We are not yet giving any sort of precise projections for 2035 in terms of fleet size.”

“But clearly, this order helps us to make long-term planning going forward. We believe very much in the growth of the Indian market and believe that the aviation market is very much underpenetrated. This sort of ten-year planning with almost 1.000 aircraft on order really allows us to make sure that when we speak about infrastructural commitments or crew planning, we can start to plan ahead.”

As Pieter Elbers outlined two weeks ago during a presentation about IndiGo on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Istanbul, aviation in India is set for huge growth. IndiGo itself expects to carry 100 million passengers this year, up from 85 million in 2022. The economy will grow significantly in the coming decades, with a growing middle class that wants to travel. The carrier had a sixty percent market share in May.

Beating the previous record

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury and Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer were humbled by the order, which beats the previous record for 430 A320neo family aircraft that was announced at the 2017 Dubai Airshow from Indigo Partners, the owner of Wizz Air and Frontier amongst others.

They were also full of praise of IndiGo and its commitment and the high level of efficiency and integrity at which the airline is run. “You can imagine how proud a moment this is for us at Airbus. It has been eighteen years from nothing to where IndiGo is today. Of course, we at Airbus are incredibly, incredibly gratified and proud of this association that has brought the democratization of air travel to India. It is only just the beginning,” Scherer said.

The IndiGo order brings the backlog for the A320neo family to over 8.700 aircraft. Production is sold out until 2029 and Airbus is investing in additional production capacity to get to ten assembly lines in Europe, the US, and China. Faury ruled out opening another one in India, as adding another one at an existing facility is less complicated than starting from scratch.

Faury isn’t concerned that Airbus has not enough capacity, which is planned to go up to 65 aircraft per month in late 2024 and to 75 per month in 2026. “These are planes to be delivered from 2030 onwards. We will be at rate 75 at that time. I don’t see an issue here. We have a short-term big challenge for the ramp-up, that’s where we are struggling today. Rate 75 is the threshold we have given ourselves and it is completely premature to think beyond 75.”

IndiGo widebody order

IndiGo reportedly is also considering adding widebodies to its fleet to penetrate the international market. It leases Boeing 777-300ERs from Turkish Airlines, with which it operates to Istanbul from Delhi and Mumbai. Later this year, it will codeshare with Turkish on flights to the US.

Asked if he will announce a widebody order soon, Pieter Elbers said: “Would you mind if we celebrate for five minutes this order? This has never happened in commercial aviation. As far as the other questions, tomorrow I will be the first one to other questions.” Airbus is said to announce an A350 widebody order on Tuesday, which would be the one that Scherer referred to on Friday without disclosing further details.

author avatar
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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