The Tata Group-backed Air India has been stealing the limelight lately for all good reasons with a mamothian order of new airplanes and a total image flip to re-enter the market with its new fleet. The carrier is poised to usher in a new era of aviation as it prepares to induct the first few of its ordered 470 aircraft from the Airbus A350 series. This strategic move is set to elevate India’s air connectivity, with the aircraft’s arrival expected at Delhi airport this Saturday.
Air India secured regulatory approvals for the engineering line maintenance of the A350 from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation earlier this month. The aircraft is slated for commercial domestic flight operations, fostering metro-to-metro connectivity by the end of January. However, this timeline accounts for the comprehensive 3-4 week period required for extensive checks and approvals, ensuring the seamless integration of the A350 into Air India’s fleet.
The A350-900, manufactured by Airbus, boasts an impressive non-stop flight time of 16-17 hours and a maximum range of up to 20 hours. This efficiency, coupled with a fuel consumption 25% lower than its predecessors, positions the A350-900 as a game-changer for Air India in the long-haul segment.
The fleet expansion includes a total of 70 wide-body aircraft, aligning with Air India’s ambitious growth plans. The order comprises 40 Airbus A350s, 20 Boeing B787s, and 10 Boeing B777-9s. The A350-900 category, powered by Rolls Royce engines, initially involved 34 A350-1000s and six A350-900s, later modified to 20 aircraft each for both segments.
The first six A350s, originally allocated to Russian airline Aeroflot, feature a configuration of 28 business class seats, 24 premium economy seats, and 264 economy seats. To ensure seamless integration, engineers from Air India, Vistara, and AIX Connect underwent rigorous training at the Airbus center in Toulouse.
Air India’s commitment to excellence is evident in its training program for over 50 engineers, obtaining licenses for approving checks on the A350. The airline plans to induct five more A350-900s by March-April, aiming for their operational debut in May.
The new fleet isn’t just about passenger services. In a bid to bolster India’s air cargo capacity, Air India’s annual cargo capacity is set to triple over the next five years, with a 300% growth target. This strategic move aligns with the airline’s efforts to boost the Indian cargo ecosystem and contribute to the global export market. The Airbus spokesperson highlighted the collaborative efforts between Airbus and Air India for the A350’s entry into service. Notably, key components and technologies will be designed, built, and maintained in India, emphasizing Airbus’s commitment to the Indian aerospace industry.