New Delhi: Air India, now owned by the Tata Group, on Tuesday announced a mega-deal with French aviation giant Airbus to acquire 250 aircraft — 210 narrow-bodied and 40 wide-body A-350 aircraft (for long-haul flights abroad) —a move hailed by both Prime Minister Narendra Modis and French President Emmanuel Macron as an “important milestone in the India-France strategic partnership.”
The deal itself was announced at a virtual meet in which both leaders participated along with the top Air India and Airbus brass, when Tata Sons chairman N. Chandrashekharan said a Letter of Intent had been signed for the acquisition.
Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury announced while the aircraft would be assembled in France and Germany, several components will be manufactured by Indian companies. The virtual meet was also attended by Tata Trusts chairman Ratan Tata, civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, commerce minister Piyush Goyal and Air India CEO Campbell Wilson.
Air India will also get another 220 aircraft from US aviation giant Boeing, taking the total number of new aircraft that it will eventually acquire to 470. News agencies said US President Joe Biden on Tuesday evening announced the “historic agreement” between Air India and Boeing for 220 aircraft with a list price of $34 billion.
The order includes 190 737 MAXs, 20 787s, and 10 777Xs, and Air India has options for an additional 50 737 MAXs and 20 787s. The reports quoted the White House saying that the Air India order was Boeing’s third biggest in dollar value and second of all time in quantity.
“This purchase will support over one million American jobs across 44 states, and many will not require a four-year college degree,” the US President was quoted as saying.
This is the first time in more than 17 years that Air India has placed aircraft orders and the first by the airline under its new owners. The new orders are expected to pave the way for revival of the airline. Air India’s last order (including that of erstwhile Indian Airlines) was placed in 2005 during the tenure of the UPA-1 government for 111 aircraft, of which 68 were from Boeing and 43 from Airbus.
Speaking at the virtual meet Tuesday, Modi hailed the “landmark agreement” between Air India and Airbus as a “testament to the deepening relationship between India and France as well as the successes and ambitions of India’s civil aviation industry”, adding that “India will soon become the third largest market in the aviation sector in the world”. Modi said: “Today, the India-France partnership is playing a direct role in ensuring the stability and balance in the international order and the multilateral system. Whether it is the issue of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, or global food security and health security, India and France together are making positive contributions.”
The Prime Minister also noted that “as per several estimates, the number of aircraft needed in India in the next 15 years will be more than 2,000” and that “today's historic announcement will be helpful in meeting this growing demand”, adding “India can become a hub of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) for the entire region”.
Hailing the deal as an important part of the India-France strategic partnership and “North-South” cooperation, Macron also mentioned the “Russian aggression against Ukraine” and said India as G-20 president can — under Modi’s leadership — “help mobilise the world to address the tremendous issues” and challenges that face the globe. He referred to the bilateral strategic partnership as being between India and France and between himself and Modi as well, thereby indicating the close rapport and bonhomie between the two leaders.