Air India expects to purchase more aircraft in the coming years – including possibly Airbus A380s or Boeing 747-8s – despite having recently placed firm orders with Boeing for 68 777s, 787s and 737-800s, writes Nicholas Ionides in Mumbai.

V Thulasidas, chairman and managing director of the state-owned flag carrier, says that, with the Indian market growing at such a rapid rate, more capacity will probably be needed than was originally envisaged when Air India placed the largest passenger aircraft order in Indian civil aviation history last year.

“We were looking at a 75-aircraft fleet for Air India when we did this exercise, but two years down the line we may find that this is inadequate for our requirements,” says Thulasidas, noting that this figure includes existing 747-400s that the airline owns and which it plans to retain. “If this growth continues on the same lines I think we will need more aircraft.”

Thulasidas says new types that are likely to be assessed in future include the ultra-large A380 and 747-8. He also says new-build freighter aircraft types may be looked at.

Air India’s order with Boeing late last year was its first for new aircraft in more than a decade, comprising 50 777-200LR/300ERs and 787s, in addition to 18 737-800s.

Air India, meanwhile, will also be operating freighters again next year following the conversion of two of its A310s from passenger configuration by EADS EFW in Germany.

Meanwhile, Air India and its state-owned sister Indian Airlines have set up a joint high-level committee to oversee preparations for their proposed merger. Thulasidas says top executives at the two carriers are in favour of the merger, which the Indian government says it wants to push through by the end of the financial year.

Source: Flight International