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Fact Check: Is Air India's Plane Deal With Boeing and Airbus Biggest Aircraft Order in Aviation History?

Not 470, but Air India has placed an order of 840 aircraft, including 470 firm and 370 option planes from Airbus as well as Boeing, in one of the biggest aviation orders. 

Fact Check: Is Air India's Plane Deal With Boeing and Airbus Biggest Aircraft Order in Aviation History? Image for representation

The Tata Group-owned Air India on February 14, 2023, placed an order for 840 planes with Airbus and Boeing. The order comprises 470 firm aircraft, 370 options and purchase rights to be procured from Airbus and Boeing over the next decade. Of these, 250 are from French planemaker Airbus and 220 from US-based Boeing. World leaders, including India's PM Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden hailed the deal as a "landmark moment", both for India's ties with these countries as well as for the Indian aviation history.

There's a lot of speculation whether this order is the biggest deal in the history of the aviation globally. In a LinkedIn post Air India's Chief Commercial and Transformation Officer Nipun Aggarwal said the airline is humbled by the excitement generated across the world by the airline's aircraft order. "The order comprises 470 firm aircraft, 370 options and purchase rights to be procured from Airbus and Boeing over the next decade," he said.

According to him, this order of 840 aircraft has been a culmination of a fascinating journey that began almost two years ago with the Air India privatisation process. The Airbus firm order comprises 210 A320/321 Neo/XLR and 40 A350-900/1000. The Boeing firm order comprises 190 737-Max, 20 787s and 10 777s. But is it really the biggest aviation deal?

Is it the biggest order yet?

This was also the first time in more than 17 years that Air India, which was acquired from the government by the Tata Group in January 2022, has ordered planes. 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.

There are two parts of this deal, one is a landmark number of 470 firm aircraft (leaving aside the 370 option aircraft) and another is the value of the deal which is estimated at $68 billion. Back in June 2011, American Airlines announced that it was placing 'the largest aircraft order in history' after placing a narrowbody deal with both Airbus and Boeing.

The deal comprised of 460 aircraft from Airbus and Boeing combined. Speaking purely number wise, Air India deal surpasses the deal of American Airlines by 10 aircraft. The next biggest order came from IndiGo in 2019 when the low cost air carrier placed a huge Airbus order for 300 A320neo family aircraft valued at $33 billion.

Speaking in terms of value, the Air India deal is the second largest deal with an estimated value of $68 billion, $34 billion each parked for Airbus and Boeing planes. The most expensive aviation deal was done by Emirates, when in 2013 the Gulf based airline signed an enormous order with Boeing for 150 new Boeing 777X aircraft valued at $76 billion.

The order comprised 35 777-8 and 115 777-9 aircraft. The value of this order was $76 billion in 2013, one of the highest value order placed for new aircraft. If inflation is taken into consideration, this value would be even higher if the order was placed in 2023, when the Air India deal is finalized.

India's Aviation industry

Currently, in India, around 470 commercial aircraft of Airbus are in service and the European major's order book for Indian airlines is around 850 planes. Indian carriers operate around 159 Boeing planes. The country's airline industry is poised for expansion with more than 1,100 planes on order by various domestic carriers.

With inputs from PTI