India’s biggest airline has ordered 300 Airbus jets in a deal worth about $33 billion, possibly Airbus’s biggest-ever order from a single carrier.
The sizeable order comes in the final quarter of a sluggish year for commercial aircraft order activity. Airbus’s chief rival, American aircraft manufacturer Boeing, has suffered major setbacks in the wake of two fatal crashes involving its 737 MAX, which has been grounded since March. But Airbus, too, has had a lacklustre year. By the end of September, it had booked just 127 net firm orders. Now it has over 400, from Spirit Airlines and VietJet as well as IndiGo.
IndiGo’s order for A320neo family jets includes Airbus’s newest jet, the A321XLR, a long-range version of the single-aisle A320neo. The new planes will bump IndiGo’s fleet of A320neo family orders to 730, making it the world’s biggest customer for the planes. “This order is an important milestone, as it reiterates our mission of strengthening air connectivity in India,” said Ronojoy Dutta, Chief Executive Officer of IndiGo.
IndiGo operates primarily in India’s domestic air travel market, and has expanded rapidly since its founding in 2006. As Reuters reports, the low-cost carrier has claimed nearly half the Indian market. Its closest competitor is SpiceJet, another budget carrier. IndiGo recently experienced its biggest quarterly loss, however, due to issues with engines for its A320neo jets from a former supplier.
Airbus itself has a big presence in the Indian market, and IndiGo is one of its top customers worldwide. The Indian airline was among the first to purchase its A320neo in 2011, at the time a record single deal for the European aircraft manufacturer, involving 180 aircraft. A series of other orders from IndiGo followed. An order for 430 Airbus jets in 2017, from American private equity firm Indigo Partners for four of its portfolio companies, stands as Airbus’s largest-ever commercial aircraft order overall.
Many of IndiGo’s new Airbus jets are not expected to be delivered until the middle of the next decade, as they will replace planes that were only recently added to its fleet. The Indian carrier is known for maintaining low average fleet ages.