Air India expected to order close to 500 aircraft: Aircraft lessor

Air India

Air India is set to order close to 500 aircraft, according to a leading aircraft lessor. Speaking at the Airline Economics conference, an executive of AirLease Corp told reporters that the Tata-owned airline was in the market for planes as the industry’s recovery from the pandemic is speeding up.

“As a result of this recovery, there is now more momentum for large orders from airlines who have sort of sat back and watched the movie, and now they’re seeing there’s going to be a positive trend,” said AirLease Corp executive chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy.

According to a Reuters report, the Indian airline has been planning to increase the size of its fleet as far back as December, with Udvar-Hazy’s comments being the first public indication of these plans.

“We have this 500-aircraft order coming out of India, which is going to be about 400 narrow-body aircraft, probably a mix of (Airbus) A320neos, A321neos and (Boeing) 737 MAXs, and 100 wide-bodies which will include (Boeing) 787s, 777X, potentially some 777 freighters and (Airbus) A350s,” he added.

With the airline industry looking to spread its wings following the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple international operators are in the market with fleet expansion on their minds. “We do expect a number of airlines will place large orders and again most of these orders will be for replacement,” Udvar-Hazy said.

United Airlines recently ordered 200 large and small aircraft. China last year placed a block order for Airbus jets. Reuters’ industry sources say finalising the proposed deal with Air India depends on ongoing negotiations with engine makers.

Udvar-Hazy predicts that most airlines would turn back towards medium-sized wide-body jets after significant delays in the development of Boeing’s largest new model, the 400-seat 777X – currently running at five years and potentially rising further.

“We expect that both OEMs will be under pressure in the next couple of years to increase production rates, not necessarily back to the levels they were in 2018, but certainly well above current production,” he said.