Dreamliner, Airbus A330 Compete for IndiGo Order

June 8, 2023

Jun. 7—NEW DELHI — The race for IndiGo's wide-body aircraft order has narrowed to two finalists, the Boeing B787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A330, two people familiar with the development said.

India's largest airline is preparing an aggressive expansion of its international operations with the acquisition of long-haul, wide-body aircraft.

" Boeing is pursuing this deal very aggressively and is very keen to fetch this order as it does not have its product in the fleet of India's largest airline IndiGo so far. The airline is also gaining some experience on the Boeing fleet with the wet-leasing arrangement with Turkish Airlines," said one of the two people cited above, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity.

Under the wet-leasing arrangement, IndiGo operates a Boeing 777 aircraft each on the Delhi- Istanbul and Mumbai- Istanbul routes. Wet leasing involves leasing an aircraft, along with its crew. These Boeing planes can seat up to 400 passengers in a dual-class configuration.

"IndiGo was also considering Airbus A350, but that may have been ruled out. In fact, they had also formulated pilots' deployment plans for an A350 as it takes around 11 days for an A320 pilot to be trained and qualified for Airbus A350," a third person aware of the development said.

The Boeing B787 Dreamliner family aircraft can seat 242-330 passengers. An Airbus A330 can accommodate around 260-300 in a typical three-class layout, or up to 460 in economy class. An Airbus A350 family aircraft can carry 300-410 passengers in three-class configurations, and up to 480 passengers in a single-class layout.

"We are always working closely and are in conversations with current and potential customers to support their needs and fleet requirements," a Boeing spokesperson said in a response to a query.

"We do not feed order speculation that always mounts ahead of air shows," an Airbus spokesperson said in a response to Mint's query.

IndiGo, which has over 500 narrow-body aircraft in the pipeline, is in talks with Boeing and Airbus for around 20 wide-body aircraft, as it seeks to expand its international operations, Mint had exclusively reported in April. This will be the first time InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, the operator of IndiGo, will be ordering wide-body aircraft.

Established in 2006, the airline has been keen on entering the next phase of expansion with an aggressive push on the international front, which also offers better margins than domestic operations. In fact, the appointment of former KLM head Pieter Elbers in September 2022 as chief executive officer of IndiGo was seen to help the airline in formulating a brand and network strategy to make it competitive in markets abroad, especially Europe.

"Under this third pillar of 'Create', we are working to create the next phase of our growth combining our very strong Indian foundation with our international aspirations. Some of the steps include commencement of foundational work for customer loyalty programme that will enable further customer loyalty," Elbers said in a post-earnings conference call in May.

Recently, the airline also said it will launch flights to North America in a codeshare partnership with Turkish Airlines. It currently connects to 33 destinations in Europe via Istanbul under the codeshare partnership. The airline, which operates around 1,800 daily flights, will also now fly to Africa and Central Asia with 174 new weekly flights between June and September 2023.

"...if we take it from a very generic approach, in general, international operations have a somewhat lower cost per unit given the stage length, which is somewhat longer...in general, the international operation is doing somewhat better than the domestic operation," Elbers had said in May.

As of March, IndiGo's fleet comprised 304 planes, of which it owned 14. The Gurugram-based airline has 162 Airbus A320neo, 21 A320ceo, 79 A321neo, 39 ATR and two Airbus 321 freighters and Boeing 777 on wet lease.

For IndiGo, another 480 jets, largely narrow-body aircraft and some turboprop jets, are in the pipeline, which will be inducted just before 2030.

Currently, Air India and Vistara are the only two Indian carriers which have wide-body planes on order. Vistara has three Boeing 787-9 aircraft on order, while Air India has ordered 20 Boeing 787-9, 10 Boeing 777-9, and 40 Airbus A350 aircraft.

Updated: 07 Jun 2023, 11:56 PM IST


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