Tata Group-owned Air India on Tuesday said it will buy 250 aircraft from Airbus in a multi-billion dollar transaction, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi describing it as a "landmark deal" that also reflects the deepening ties between India and France.
The announcement of the aircraft purchase deal, the first for Air India in more than 17 years, was made at an online event that was attended by Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, Union ministers Jyotiraditya Scindia and Piyush Goyal, Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran, Tata Group patriarch Ratan Tata, Air India CEO Wilson Campbell and Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.
The loss-making Air India, which was acquired by Tata Group in January last year, will acquire 210 A320 neo planes and 40 A350 aircraft from Airbus, according to Chandrasekaran.
While the pricing details are not known, the deal is estimated to be worth billions of dollars.
The wide-body A350 aircraft will be utilised by the airline for ultra-long-haul flights. Generally, flights that have a duration of a little over 16 hours are called ultra-long-haul flights.
Modi said the "landmark deal" reflects the deepening ties between India and France, as well as the successes and aspirations of India's civil aviation sector.
He also said India's growing aviation sector would need over 2,000 aircraft in the next 15 years.
"Our civil aviation sector is an integral part of India's development. Strengthening the civil aviation sector is an important aspect of our national infrastructure policy," he said.
At the online event, Macron said Air India's deal with Airbus for the acquisition of 250 aircraft was one of the milestones of the in-depth strategic and friendly partnership between India and France.
"This achievement shows that Airbus and its partners, including Safran, are fully committed to developing new areas of cooperation with India and we have achieved so much with India in a wide range of sectors from space to cyber, from defence to culture, from health to energy transition," he said.
The French President said Airbus was contributing to the outstanding development of India and the new 250 aircraft which will be delivered to Air India will be one more step in this direction.
"There is a deep commitment in France to provide state-of-the-art and the most efficient technologies available to India and to be part of the Made in India strategy," he said.
In a tweet, Modi said, "I thank my friend @EmmanuelMacron for joining me at the launch of an important partnership between @airindiain and @Airbus that will further strengthen the Indian aviation sector and create opportunities in both nations. This reflects the robust Indo-French Strategic Partnership".
Currently, around 470 commercial aircraft of Airbus are in service in India.
Tata Group has been taking various measures to revive Air India.
Air India, earlier under the ownership of the government, had acquired new aircraft more than 17 years ago.
The airline's last order was for 111 planes -- 68 from Boeing and 43 from Airbus -- and that deal was worth USD 10.8 billion. The order was placed in 2005.
On January 27, when the Tata Group completed the first year of taking over Air India, the airline said it was "finalising a historic order of new aircraft to power future growth.
The airline has put in place a road map under Vihaan.AI for transformation over the next five years and has taken various measures, including committing USD 400 million to refurbish the interiors of its entire wide-body fleet.