Nacil to expand fleet, mulls 150-plane order

Nacil to expand fleet, mulls 150-plane order

Aircraft manufacturers Boeing Co. and Airbus SAS are vying for a new order totalling 150 planes, or more than the entire current fleet of National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, or Nacil—the entity into which state-run carriers Air India and Indian Airlines were merged.

Nacil is believed to be looking at buying a mix of Airbus and Boeing planes. The estimated value of the new order is at least Rs50,000 crore.

The company currently has 139 planes and its two units had already placed orders individually, for a total of 111 aircraft from both Airbus and Boeing, for a total of Rs42,000 crore.

A senior Nacil executive, who didn’t want to be named, said that the airline is now looking at acquiring another 150 planes.

“It could be (a) mix of Airbus and Boeing type of airplanes," he said. “We have just started preliminary exercises towards another round of acquisition. The delivery of this fresh acquisition would start after 2011," the official added.

Nacil had recently constituted a special committee, comprising Air India senior executives, to finalize the number and types of planes the airline will require during 2011-15.

Union minister for civil aviation Praful Patel has said Air India alone would need at least 60 planes.

On Wednesday, Boeing officials made their case for a larger share of the new order before Nacil board members, highlighting the qualities and suitability of its aircraft types to the Indian market. Airbus officials had made their presentation last week.

Jitender Bhargava, Air India’s executive director (communications), confirmed that aircraft makers had met board members for exploring the possible fleet acquisition, but declined to elaborate.

If the order materializes, the 150-plane deal could be the largest, single aircraft order from India.

In 2005, InterGlobe Enterprises Ltd, which runs low-fare carrier IndiGo, had placed orders for 100 Airbus A320 family aircraft.

“Nacil requires more planes as its existing fleet is getting old. Moreover, the carrier would need more planes for its domestic and international connections. The demographic growth shows India and China would lead in international passengers," said Amitabh Chakraborty, president (equities), Religare Securities Ltd.

In the earlier order of 111 planes, Air India had opted for Boeing for its 68 aircraft while Indian Airlines chose Airbus for 43 planes.