Newly privatised Air India (AI, Delhi International) has decided to procure its first batch of A350 widebodies, with anonymous sources informing the Press Trust of India that first delivery is likely by March 2023. At the same time, reports have emerged that the carrier is considering ordering up to 300 narrowbody jets.

Air India has not bought a single aircraft since 2006, when it acquired 111 including 68 from Boeing and 43 from Airbus. Although the exact model or quantity of the A350s being ordered was not specified to the news agency, the sources said that the aim is to improve the quality and efficiency of services on long-haul routes such as to the United States.

The now Tata Sons-owned airline is looking to order around twenty A350s, people close to the matter told Bloomberg News, one option being to take jets that had previously been intended for Aeroflot (SU, Moscow Sheremetyevo) and can no longer be delivered due to sanctions. Another potential fast track would be to acquire aircraft that Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad International) is not currently taking due to a clash with Airbus over A350-1000 paint quality.

Air India has asked its pilots to respond by June 20 on whether they want to undergo “conversion training” to fly the A350, according to a letter to senior cockpit crew seen by Bloomberg.

According to the ch-aviation fleets module, Air India currently operates forty-three widebodies, including twenty-seven B787-8s that were part of the 2006 order and whose delivery began in 2012; thirteen B777-300(ER)s; and three B777-200(LR)s. It retired, and India’s civil aviation authority deregistered, its four remaining B747-400s earlier this year. It also operates seventy-seven Airbus narrowbodies.

Unnamed sources told Bloomberg in February that Air India had been in talks with both Airbus and Boeing as well as lessors about potential orders for new aircraft to rejuvenate its ageing fleet.

Air India did not immediately respond to ch-aviation’s request for comment, while Airbus commented: “We are always in contact with existing and potential customers and the nature of these discussions - whether happening or not - are confidential.”

On June 20, Bloomberg reported anonymous sources as telling it that Air India is also considering an order for up to 300 narrowbody jets. The order would be for A320neo Family aircraft or B737 MAX or a combination of both. Production and delivery could take more than a decade to complete.