Air India signs largest ever plane deal

Airbus Neo (via Twitter)

Air India has agreed to buy 250 jets from Airbus, part of a mammoth deal for 470 planes that is also expected to include 220 Boeing jets, as the airline heralds a decades-long transformation under its new owners, Tata Group.

The Airbus order includes 210 A320neo narrow-body planes and 40 A350 widebody aircraft, which Air India will use to fly "ultra-long routes across the globe," Tata Chairman N Chandrasekaran said on Tuesday.

The combined 470-jet order is the largest by a single airline. Coupled with roughly 25 more Airbus jets that Air India plans to lease to meet its immediate needs, it touches the 500-mark, confirming a scale first reported by Reuters in December.

Analysts said it displays India's ambition to be one of world's biggest aviation markets with its growing base of fliers and large diaspora across the world.

The order also marks a turning point for Air India which, under new CEO Campbell Wilson, is working to revive its reputation as a world-class airline and shake off its image as a tardy, run-down operation with an ageing fleet and poor service.

"One of the most important things is a modern fleet which is efficient and can perform for all routes," Chandrasekaran said during a virtual press briefing.

The online event was attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron, highlighting the political and economic importance of a deal involving India's former flag bearer.

"This important deal shows, along with the deepening of relations between India and France, the successes and aspirations of the civil aviation sector in India. Today, civil aviation is an integral part of India's growth," Modi said.

More from Business