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Planemakers Boeing Co. and Airbus SE are in talks with the new owners of Air India Ltd, Tata Group, about an order for a raft of new planes, part of a plan to rejuvenate the ailing carrier and its aging fleet, suggests reports.

Air India was handed back to its founders, the Tata group, in January, almost seven decades after it was nationalized, capping years of struggle by the government to sell the struggling airline.

Tata Sons Pvt has begun talks with the planemakers and lessors for jets including Airbus A350-900s and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, reported Bloomberg. The talks are at a preliminary stage, with Tata Sons assessing the right fleet mix and no decisions taken yet on aircraft type or order size, the report added. 

The carrier is in discussions for new Airbus or Boeing narrow-body jets that form the mainstay of Air India’s domestic and short-haul operations, as well as wide-body aircraft capable of flying as far as the US. While the airline has lucrative landing slots, the group faces an uphill task to upgrade Air India's aging fleet and turn around its financials and service levels.

The carrier currently has 153 planes in its fleet, according to its website. That includes 49 wide-body aircraft manufactured by Boeing and Airbus, including jets from the best-selling 737 and 320 families, making it a complicated mix considering each aircraft type requires separate skill sets of pilots and crew.

“In terms of fleet, we know we have work to do," Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chairman of the Tata Group, told Air India employees earlier this month at an internal company briefing, according to a video reviewed by Bloomberg News. “We will address it with utmost urgency. We’ll upgrade our fleet, we’ll bring modernity in our fleet, we’ll bring a new fleet."

A deal for 50 brand new 787-9 jets could be valued at $14.6 billion at sticker prices, although discounts are common in such large transactions. Air India, one of the world’s first buyers of the Boeing Dreamliner, operates the oldest versions of the fuel-efficient workhorse, although several of them remain grounded due to a lack of parts. 

 

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