Air India Express has plans to introduce Airbus A321neo in its fleet. The airline is aiming to operate a mixed fleet of Boeing 737 MAX, Airbus A320neo, and Airbus A321neo.
In July 2023, TATA Group placed an order for 210 Airbus A320 family and 190 Boeing 737 MAX family aircraft. Earlier, it was expected that Air India would receive the Airbus Narrowbodies, while Boeing 737s would be delivered to Air India Express. However, the group has some different plans.
Mixed Fleet of A321neo, A320neo and B737 MAX
Air India Express Chief Executive Officer, Aloke Singh in an interview with Yaruqhullah Khan of Moneycontrol, revealed the airline’s intention to include the larger Airbus Narrowbody aircraft, the Airbus A321neo in its fleet.
The final decision on the number of these aircraft to be shared between Air India and Air India Express has not been taken yet. The distribution will be based on operational requirements.
Air India Express will operate both Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 MAX family aircraft to enhance operational versatility. The airline is aiming to gain flexibility in operations. So that the aircraft can be used based on the requirements. According to Aloke Singh, when an airline has a large scale of growth, the advantages of a single fleet strategy start to reduce. At one point, this starts providing results in a negative direction. In India, airlines like IndiGo are known for their commitment to maintaining fleet commonality.
Air India Express, in the near future, has no plans to foray into the widebody market segment. It has left the Premium segment for the mainline carrier, Air India. All the 70 widebody aircraft ordered in July last year will be delivered to Air India.
Fleet Expansion, Retirement & Market Share Goals
The current fleet of Air India Express includes 62 aircraft. Out of this, 34 are Boeing 737s and the remaining are Airbus A320s. Before fleet expansion, let us talk about the retirement plans. Air India Express has 23 Airbus A320 and 10 Boeing 737s on lease. Once the lease period ends, these aircraft will be redelivered to the lessor.
Within the next five years, the airline is aiming to expand its fleet to 180 aircraft. As per the plan, the Low-Cost Carrier is looking to receive delivery of seven Boeing 737 MAXs every two months. Since October 2023, it has added nine aircraft to its fleet. In December month, Boeing delivered six jets to the airline.
Most of these aircraft were earlier destined for airlines based in China. Due to delays in the certification of Boeing 737 MAX in China, Boeing allotted the white-tail airframes to Air India Express.
This heavy fleet expansion will be followed by network expansion. The airline is targeting doubling the market share in domestic as well as short-haul international markets. Currently, the domestic market share is 6.5-7 percent. By 2028, the target is to reach an aim of 15 percent. Within the 5-hour range of India, Air India Express has 11-12% of market share. Within the next 5 years, it is anticipated that this will reach 20%.
The Boeing 737NG fleet of Air India Express still wears the old tail-art liveries. It has no plans to change these liveries. They will continue to operate in the old livery.
By April, both AIX Connect and Air India Express will be fully merged. Both airlines will be operated from the same headquarters under the same Air Operator Permit. Currently, the airline’s network is more tilted towards the international side. In the next 2-3 years, it is expecting capacity deployment on domestic and international operations to be 50-50%.
It is attracting passengers from Tier-II & Tier-III cities. Both airlines are restructuring their network to enhance traffic flow into each other’s networks. It is also considering launching a Frequent Flyer Loyalty program to keep passengers engaged within the airline funnel. Potentially, this program will be linked to Flying Returns of Air India. Air India is expected to be on board the TATA Group Super App – TATA Neu.