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Air India has signed a sale and leaseback agreement with US-based Willis Lease Finance Corp for 34 engines to power 17 aircraft of the Airbus A320 family. 

Under the agreement, Willis Lease will purchase from Air India 34 CFM56-5B engines to power 13 Airbus A321 aircraft and 4 Airbus A320 airplanes and lease them back to the airline. Willis Lease will also provide replacement and standby spare engines to Air India as per the agreement. 

“Willis Lease will provide replacement and standby spare engines, allowing Air India to avoid potentially costly and unpredictable shop visits on engines powering a transitioning aircraft fleet. Willis Lease will also have an in-country team to co-ordinate and manage the entire programme and all logistics and transportation involved," the airline said. 

Florida-based Willis Lease is a global aviation finance company, specializing in the lease, finance and management of aircraft, spare commercial aircraft engines and auxiliary power units. 

The transaction will enable Air India to eliminate the maintenance burden and fully de-risk itself from the maintenance cost uncertainty associated with the engines and will allow the airline to de-risk itself operationally, improve fleet reliability, reduce cost, and optimize cash flows, Chief Commercial Officer of Air India Mr Nipun Aggarwal said. 

Air India currently has 113 aircraft in its fleet out of which 87 planes are operational. These include 54 narrow-body airplanes and 33 wide-body aircraft. The inoperative 16 narrow-body aircraft and 10 wide-body aircraft are expected to return to service by early 2023. The airline has also signed up for leasing 21 Airbus A320neos, 4 Airbus A321neos and 5 Boeing B777-200LRs. These aircraft will enter the airline’s fleet from late 2022 and will increase the airline’s fleet size by 25%. 

Air India has been on a transformational path since it was taken over by the Tata Group under a government-led strategic divestment programme in Jan 2022. The airline has recently said that it aims to achieve at least 30% market share in the domestic aviation market over a period of five years. As per Aug data from the civil aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Air India holds 8.5% market share in the domestic aviation sector.

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