Planemakers Boeing Co and Airbus SE have met executives from India’s Tata Group in recent weeks to discuss future plane orders for Air India, two people familiar with the matter said.
Tata last month regained ownership of state-run carrier Air India after nearly 70 years in a $2.4 billion equity-and-debt deal. 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.
Air India has a mixed fleet of over 140 Airbus and Boeing planes, and industry executives estimate it would cost Tata more than $1 billion to refurbish the aging aircraft.
No comment was immediately available from any of the companies involved.
Bloomberg reported on Thursday that Tata had begun preliminary discussions with the planemakers and lessors for jets including Airbus A350-900s and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, citing people familiar with the matter.
The airline, with its maharajah mascot, was once renowned for its lavishly decorated planes and stellar service championed by founder JRD Tata. Air India was founded in 1932 and nationalised in 1953.
Since the mid-2000s, however, Air India’s reputation has declined as financial troubles mounted. It flew widebody planes with business class seats in poor repair and grounded some of its new 787s to use for spare parts.
Tata, the autos-to-steel conglomerate, operates two other airlines: Vistara, in a joint venture with Singapore Airlines, and AirAsia India, which it operates in partnership with AirAsia Group.