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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 25 June 2024

Air India stake, cash to fund planes, says Campbell Wilson

Tata-owned carrier earlier this month announced provisional deals for 250 planes

Our Special Correspondent New Delhi Published 28.02.23, 02:14 AM
Representational image.

Representational image. File picture

Air India will fund its record 470-plane order from Boeing and Airbus through own funds, equity and saleand-leaseback, chief executive Campbell Wilson said on Monday.

The Tata-owned carrier earlier this month announced the provisional deals for 250 planes from Airbus and 220 from Boeing. The planes comes at a list price of $70 billion.

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“We will be exploring other opportunities such as sale and lease back of aircraft. It suffices to say that there are a number of funding sources and it is likely to be a combination of various sources,” Wilson said.

The order comprises 70 wide-body aircraft as Air India bets on a surge in international travel.

The six wide-body Airbus A350s will join the fleet this year, Wilson said.

“So the principal driver (for the plane order) was really recognising the opportunity for Indian aviation and putting in place the investment in the capacity of the aircraft,” Wilson said.

He said the growth rate of the economy, significant population and attractive demographics offer great scope to the industry. Besides, the country’s geography is suited for international connectivity.

India is perfectly placed to capture changes in the supply chain infrastructure.

There is a large and affluent diaspora that is very much looking forward to getting connected to the home market, Wilson added.

There is an untapped opportunity in direct flights to North America. Air India will also increase the frequency of flights to European destinations, including to places such as Frankfurt, Paris and the United Kingdom.

The airline is spending $400 million on refurbishing and upgrading its planes, especially on long-haul routes as it looks to compete with bigger rivals such as Emirates.

Air India said it wanted to keep the Maharaja brand. “Maharaja is something that we want to be part of the future of Air India. It is very well loved,” Wilson said.

Wilson said Air India had no timeline to exercise its option of purchasing another 370 planes. “We don’t have a timeline. We will evaluate the market.”

Meanwhile, Air India is awaiting the competition regulator’s nod on the Vistara merger.

“The Air India-Vistara merger is going through a regulatory process. We are yet to get an approval from the CCI and once we get that we will get into the second phase which is about approaching the DGCA.”

“There is a desire to carry forward the heritage of both Air India and Vistara post the merger. We will eventually have to let go off the Vistara brand post the merger. The intention is to end up with one full service carrier and one low Cost Carrier in the group,” Wilson said.

Wilson said that around 1,500 people took VRS last year, which is 43 per cent of the eligible staff.

Thales move

Advanced technology solutions provider Thales on Monday said it will hire 550 workers in India — more than a quarter of the 2000 recruits worldwide.

Thales provides solutions to plane makers. Such a big recruitment plan may be linked to the plane orders expected to come out of India.

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