Air India Express (IX, Delhi International) is poised for rapid growth after its expected merger with fellow budget carrier AirAsia India (Bengaluru International) by late March 2024 and the addition to its fleet of about fifty B737 MAX by December 2024, reports BusinessLine newspaper in Delhi.

This will allow the Air India (AI, Delhi International) subsidiary to grow its West Asian network and introduce new domestic and international routes, including Thailand, Malaysia, Bangladesh, and the Maldives.

No further details on the fleet additions were disclosed. ch-aviation has reached out to Air India Express for comment.

Focused initially on medium-haul travel to the Middle East and Southeast Asia, Air India Express was restrained by fleet limitations despite a solid financial position, according to BusinessLine. A business plan drafted in 2018 projecting a fleet of 50 aircraft by 2025 was hindered by disinvestment and COVID-19 disruptions.

However, B737 MAX deliveries are due to start in September 2023 amid the ongoing merger process with AirAsia India. The merger is expected to be finalised by late March 2024 and will lead to a unified fleet and network under AIX Connect, as the merged entity will be called. According to BusinessLine, the airline expects to add 23 more aircraft by March 2024, primarily for international routes. New domestic flights from Bengaluru International, Hyderabad, and cities in Kerala are also planned.

According to the ch-aviation fleets module, Air India Express currently operates a fleet of twenty-six B737-800s, while AirAsia India operates thirty A320s, including twenty-five A320-200s, five A320-200Ns, with eight A321-200NX due.

Both airlines will transition to the new brand, operating as a single corporate entity, using a single air operator’s certificate (AOC). They already have a common website and call centre. The next stage will be the integration of staff. About 150 new pilots have been recruited in the last 18 months.

The integration involves route restructuring, network planning, employee integration, recruitment, and training. A new logo and livery will be introduced. The rebranding will occur in phases to ensure seamless operations.

The merger forms parts of a broader consolidation programme amongst Tata Sons airlines that will also see Air India merge with Vistara (UK, Delhi International).