India’s IndiGo surprised a few on October 29 by announcing a bumper-order for 300 Airbus A320neo-family aircraft. It is one of the biggest orders with a single customer if you don’t include a similar big deal in 2017 for 430 neo’s by Indigo Partners – the investor group unrelated to IndiGo.
IndiGo widens it neo-portfolio by adding a mix of A320neo’s, A321neo’s, and A321XLRs to its current fleet of 129 A320ceo’s, 90 A320neo’s (of 280 on direct order), and 6 A321neo’s (150 on order). Originally, the airline ordered 180 neo’s in 2011 and another 250 in 2015 and took delivery of the first A320neo in March 2016. The new orders take the total number of neo’s in its fleet to 730.
In a statement to its employee’s, CEO Rono Dutta confirmed the airline’s strong balance sheet which allows it to committ to its growth strategy and invest in additional aircraft: “We have more growth opportunities than we can meet with our existing fleet of aircraft. The Airbus 320neo family is ideally suited to our needs offering a platform of low cost, reliability and a mix of options between A320neo, A321neo and A321 XLR aircraft. As we spread our wings and add more destinations, we need to extend the range of our operations and that is why we have added the A321XLR aircraft to our aircraft order.”
The questionmark that hangs over this order is: who will get the engine deal? “The choice of engine manufacturer for this order will be made at a later date”, Dutta said. IndiGo’s neo’s so far has used Pratt & Whitney GTFs, but the airline has suffered more than average trouble with the new-generation powerplants. While meeting their promised fuel efficiency they have also proven numerous reliability issues, including seal issues, in-flight shutdowns and higher wear in India’s salty, poluted and humid climate.
At last June’s Paris Air Show, IndiGo mitigated its risks by opting for CFM LEAP-1As for its 280 A320neo and A321neo-aircraft on order in a deal worth over $20 billion in list prices. The latest order will confirm in which manufacturer the airline has the most confidence.