Mumbai: Air India expects to induct six Airbus SE A350 jetliners starting from the end of this year following the carrier’s giant aircraft purchase that was the biggest in the history of civil aviation.
“We’ve committed to a historic order of aircraft that will start entering from the end of this year through to the end of the decade, to both transform the fleet and power significant network and capacity expansion,” Air India CEO Campbell Wilson said during an online media event Monday.
The experience of flying Air India will be revitalized once the refurbished widebody aircraft start joining the fleet around July 2024, Wilson said. The airline has kicked off a $400 million upgrading process that involves replacing all seats and in-flight entertainment systems with the latest generation products. The engineering and regulatory work for the refurbishment is ongoing and the production of new seats will follow, he said.
‘Truly Air India product’
There will also be significant customization in the design of the aircraft getting delivered to the carrier from 2026, making them a “truly Air India product,” he said.
As part of the transformation, planning for Air India’s merger with Vistara, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Tata, is “well underway” Wilson said, allowing the two carriers to integrate seamlessly as soon as they get the necessary regulatory clearances.
The merger will result in a single full-service airline called Air India, he said. The full-service carrier won’t be named after Vistara because despite its success in the Indian market, Air India is a much more recognized name globally and has a longer history, he said.
The full-service airline will however adopt many “practices and systems” of Vistara because Vistata is a younger, private airline. Air India will eventually have one full-service airline and a low-cost carrier, he added.
Will the Maharajah mascot stay?
For its fresh look, Air India has appointed FutureBrand in London and some other external agencies, Wilson said. The carrier is assessing how it can retain its famous Maharajah mascot, which is beloved in India but not particularly well known overseas, to appeal to the broader market, he said.
“We need to be a forward-looking airline, a forward-looking business that respects the past but also looks at the future,” he said. “There were quite some years of underinvestment in Air India in terms of people, process, systems, and a lot of this requires strengthening and improving.”