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Air India announced a 470-plane order with Airbus and Boeing, underscoring the industry’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and the airline’s ambition to become a global force after years of contraction. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Mumbai: Air India could almost double what already stands to be the biggest aircraft order in commercial aviation history as it tries to emerge from decades of mismanagement and challenge local rivals and international giants.

In addition to the record order for 470 planes from Airbus and Boeing announced Tuesday, the carrier has options to buy another 370 jets, Chief Commercial and Transformation Officer Nipun Aggarwal wrote in a LinkedIn post late Wednesday. That number hadn’t been disclosed before.

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The previous biggest order was a 460-plane deal by American Airlines in 2011.

Air India has also signed long-term engine maintenance deals with CFM International SA, Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc and GE Aerospace Inc, Aggarwal said.

Founded by Tata Group in the 1930s before being taken over the by the state and eventually bought by Tata again last year, Air India holds lucrative landing and parking slots at most major airports around the globe. It can fly nonstop to a range of destinations, bypassing Middle Eastern hubs. The aim is for the blockbuster order to put it among the world’s top carriers.

“This order is also a testament to the tremendous economic potential unleashed by the Air India privatization,” Aggarwal wrote.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke with both French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden when Air India formally signed the deals this week, underscoring the political significance of the order. Tata’s takeover of Air India was the most high-profile privatization under Modi’s leadership, during which he has pledged that the government would stay out of businesses and end years of taxpayer-funded bailouts.