Indian carriers close in on aircraft deals

Singapore
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Two of the longest-running civil aircraft campaigns in history are coming to a close, with state-owned Air India and Indian Airlines preparing to formalise purchase agreements with Boeing and Airbus, respectively.

Both carriers have been looking at new aircraft orders for well over a decade, but repeatedly deferred decisions. Both are now at the final stages of firming up their expansion plans and this week Air India is scheduled to sign a formal purchase agreement with Boeing covering the purchase of 68 new narrowbody and widebody aircraft.

air india set to sign for boeing narrow and widebo

Air India says a signing ceremony has been scheduled for 11 January at its headquarters in Mumbai. It says it will be signing a firm purchase agreement, allowing for deliveries of narrowbodies to begin later in 2006 and the delivery of widebodies to begin early in 2007.

The carrier in April began seeking Indian government approval to order new aircraft and has started to seek financing for pre-delivery payments. It will place firm orders for 23 777s (believed to be eight 777-200LRs and 15 777-300ERs), 27 787-8s – all powered by General Electric engines – and 18 737-800s for low-cost subsidiary Air India Express. The firm order is larger than expected, with the airline having previously stated it would sign for 53 firm orders, plus 15 options.

Indian Airlines, meanwhile, says it expects to sign a firm purchase agreement with Airbus after signing a “Term Sheet” with the manufacturer late in December. The carrier has been planning an order for 43 A320-family aircraft for years, but this has been repeatedly delayed, forcing it to lease more aircraft for expansion. The Term Sheet covers the planned purchase of 19 A319s, four A320s and 20 A321s, all powered by CFM International CFM56 engines, for delivery from October 2006.

NICHOLAS IONIDES/SINGAPORE