The potential blockbuster deal of this year’s Farnborough air show still hangs in the balance, with Airbus SE growing more confident it can secure a landmark purchase of about 50 A350 wide-body jets from Air India Ltd at the event, and Boeing working on a deal for as many as 150 737 Max jetliners.
The Indian carrier is considering Boeing’s narrow-body planes alongside the Airbus A350 jets, as part of a fleet renewal under new owner Tata Group. Fleet modernization and expansion of its fleet would be important for Air India to compete in the cutthroat Indian Aviation industry as well as with India’s largest airline IndiGo with its ever-growing fleet.
Air India is inclining towards B737 for its narrow-body aircraft as the delivery time for Airbus’s A320 has a long wait time. Air India recently appointed its chief pilot for A350, suggesting the airline wants to purchase Airbus’s most advanced aircraft.
The discussions are ongoing and the final order tallies could shift, the people said. Airbus is trying to get the widebody deal firmed up at the show, but the carrier may wait for an official announcement until India’s Independence Day on August 15.
Landing a large-scale narrow-body order in India would be a coup for both Boeing and its European arch-rival. Airbus dominates the skies in the country, so any narrow-body win for Boeing would help the US company gain traction in one of the world’s fastest-growing aviation markets.
Air India’s owner Tata Group Air India is considering an order of as many as 300 narrow-body jets, Bloomberg News reported last month. The Airbus A350 long-range jets are capable of flying as far as the US West Coast from New Delhi. The airline still has lucrative landing slots at most major airports. But it faces competition from foreign airlines with nonstop services to India as well as from carriers that fly via hubs in the Middle East.
Tata bought the airline earlier this year in the most high-profile privatization under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is expected to consolidate its aviation businesses, including four airline brands. An order for new planes, especially with favourable terms on long-term maintenance, would help it cut costs and compete better with rivals that offer very cheap fares.