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Air India orders a record 470 Boeing and Airbus aircrafts

The new Airbus A320neo takes off for its first test flight at Toulouse-Blagnac airport in southwestern France on Sept. 25, 2014. The owner of Air India announced a deal Tuesday to buy 250 Airbus jets, including A350 wide-body planes and A320neo single-aisle planes in a deal worth billions of dollars.
Frederic Lancelot
/
AP
The new Airbus A320neo takes off for its first test flight at Toulouse-Blagnac airport in southwestern France on Sept. 25, 2014. The owner of Air India announced a deal Tuesday to buy 250 Airbus jets, including A350 wide-body planes and A320neo single-aisle planes in a deal worth billions of dollars.

Updated February 15, 2023 at 3:59 PM ET

Air India is purchasing a record number of passenger airplanes for nearly 500 new commercial jetliners, with the planes split almost evenly between U.S. aerospace giant Boeing, and European airplane manufacturer Airbus.

The massive order agreements announced on Tuesday signal that under new ownership, Air India is positioning itself to compete for a greater share of the booming domestic and international air travel market in a country that will soon have the world's largest population, with a growing middle class.

Air India is already the largest international carrier in its home country, but it trails behind India's dominant discount airline, IndiGo, for domestic market share.

Delivery of all the planes would cost the airline $34 billion

The order for Boeing airplanes includes 190 737 Max jets, 20 Boeing 787 Dreamliners and 10 widebody 777X planes for a total of 220 aircraft. If Air India takes final delivery of all those planes, it would cost the airline $34 billion at list price. Airlines, however, rarely pay list price and usually negotiate steep discounts, especially when ordering such a large number of aircraft.

The White House, which announced the Boeing orders, says the deal also includes options for an additional 70 jetliners for a total list price of close to $46 billion.

It is the second largest order ever for Boeing in terms of the number of aircraft, and third largest as measured by dollar value.

President Biden calls the order for Boeing jetliners, "historic," adding that it will support a total of 1.47 million direct and indirect jobs across country, with a total economic impact of $70 billion.

In addition to the Boeing jets, Air India is ordering 250 airplanes from European manufacturer Airbus, including 210 A320 Neo narrow-body planes and 40 A350 wide-body aircraft, which Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of Air India's parent company Tata Sons, says will be used to "fly all ultra long distance across the globe."

Air India is also entering into lease agreements for 25 airbus planes, making the overall acquisition 495 passenger jets.

That number tops the previous world record airplane order by a single airline of 460 Boeing and Airbus jetliners by American Airlines more than a decade ago.

Tata Sons, India's oldest and largest conglomerate, regained ownership of the debt-laden national carrier last year. The Tata Group pioneered commercial aviation in India when it launched the airline in 1932. It was taken over by the government in 1953.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron applauded the deal, with both saying it's a sign of the strengthening "strategic partnership" between their countries.

"India is going to be the world's third-largest market in the aviation sector," Modi said. Over the next 15 years, it's estimated that India will need more than 2,000 aircraft and "today's historic announcement will help in meeting this growing demand," he said.

Macron called the deal a "new success" in the strategic partnership between India and France and an opportunity to "develop new areas of cooperation with India."

Tata is integrating Air India with Vistara, which it jointly runs with Singapore Airlines, and with Air Asia India, which it runs with Malaysian discount operator Air Asia.

The Associated Press contributed to this story

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David Schaper is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, based in Chicago, primarily covering transportation and infrastructure, as well as breaking news in Chicago and the Midwest.