The world’s two largest jet manufacturers have announced record-setting deals driven by surging demand from regional airlines in India, signaling a possible resurgence for a commercial aviation industry battered by a years-long covid-induced malaise.
In a Tuesday announcement at the Paris Air Show in Le Bourget, France, Boeing said it has finalized an order for up to 220 commercial jets for the fast-growing Air India, with options for another 70 planes. The same airline firmed up an earlier deal for 250 jets from Airbus, Boeing’s European rival.
Just a day earlier the Indian budget airline IndiGo placed a firm order for 500 Airbus A320 passenger jets. At least on paper, it’s the largest deal in the history of commercial aviation.
Air India CEO Campbell Wilson said the massive order will allow Air India to “operate the most advanced and fuel-efficient aircraft” within five years and would bolster India’s position on the global stage. The deals were first announced by Air India in February but made official this week.
“We are proud to be working with all our partners, including Airbus, in this journey to rebuild a global airline which reflects India taking a more confident posture around the world,” Wilson said.
Airbus chief commercial officer called Air India’s expansion “one of the most ambitious projects in the airline business today.” Boeing CEO Stan Deal said the deal “shows [Air India’s] confidence in our products and services in the world’s fastest growing aviation market.”
The most attractive jets on the market currently belong to Airbus, according to Mike Boyd, a commercial aerospace analyst at Boyd Group International. But the jet manufacturer is at “a production chokehold,” backlogged with orders that leave it unable to meet Air India’s full demand.
“Seeing that Airbus couldn’t meet that demand, they called up their friends in Seattle. Boeing is clearly in the descendency, even with this deal,” Boyd said.
The Indian government plans to open 100 new airports in the country by 2024, which could double its air fleet from 600 to 1,200 planes, according to Nirmala Sitharaman, India’s finance minister. The new airports are part of the country’s plan to revamp its transport infrastructure, making air travel between a new network of regional airports cheap and accessible.
Air India’s deal with Boeing is for 190 737 MAXs, 20 787 Dreamliners and 10 777X jets, with the option to purchase an additional 50 737 MAXs and 20 787 Dreamliners, according to a company statement. The airline’s order with Airbus is for 210 A320neo and A321neo narrow-body jets and 40 A350 widebodies.
At list prices, Air India’s deals with Boeing and Airbus are valued at a combined $70 billion, Air India’s Wilson said in February. But deals of this nature are typically discounted from list prices by about 25 percent, Boyd said, with the order specifics subject to change based on advancements in technology and regulation.
The first jets from Airbus’s deal with Air India will be the wide-body A350s and will be delivered by the end of the year, company spokesperson Stefan Schaffrath told The Washington Post. Airbus’s deal with IndiGo has a delivery window that starts in “the early 2030s,” Schaffrath said. Boeing declined to disclose the delivery window for its deal.
Airbus produces 65 jets per month and is booked with orders until 2029, Schaffrath said. By 2026, the jet manufacturer expects production to increase to 75 jets per month.
Boeing stock fell more than 3 percent Tuesday.