The Airbus A350 has proven to be a popular aircraft around the globe, with over 900 orders. However, despite India’s growing aviation market, no airline in the country has opted to buy Airbus’ flagship widebody. So why are Indian airlines not ordering the A350, and could they do so in the future?
The A350’s size puts it right in the middle of the capacity offered by the Boeing 787 and 777 family, a sweet spot for many airlines. However, this might not prove to be the case for Indian carriers in particular. Considering India almost exclusively operates point-to-point flights, airlines have mostly opted for smaller, more efficient jets like the 787.
The A350-900 offers a seating capacity of 300 to 350 passengers, higher than the 248-296 on the 787-8/9. This margin of seats makes a big difference to Indian airlines, which face stiff competition from Middle East airlines and might struggle to fill seats on their long-haul routes.
For more popular markets from India, such as flights to London and the US, Air India operates the Boeing 777-300ER (and some -200LRs). The former seats 342 in a three-class layout, slightly more than what the A350-900 could seat. For premium-heavy markets, the 777-300ER has made more sense for airlines, with the A350-1000 again being too large.
Overall, the A350-900 has found itself struggling due to its size, unable to meet the demand for lower demand long-haul routes but not big enough (or too big) for the most popular routes. However, this doesn’t mean the airline doesn’t have a future in the country.
There are only two Indian carriers operating widebodies currently: Air India and Vistara. The former currently operates a fleet of Boeing 787-8s and 777s, while the latter flies the 787-9s.
Both airlines have relatively young fleets too, with Vistara’s first Dreamliner only joining the fleet one year ago. Air India’s 787s average 6.7 years and 777s average 11.4 years in age, according to Planespotters.net.
However, as traffic in the Indian market continues to grow, both these airlines could consider the A350. For instance, Air India is set to become privatized this year and the new owners will likely start planning a fleet modernization for the next decade.
That is also when the 777s will begin reaching the end of their usage, making the A350 a prime contender to fill the role as the Indian market expands further and direct flights become more popular.
Another likely scenario is that Vistara begins considering the A350 soon. The airline will take delivery of all six of its 787-9s by the end of 2021. Once the airline quickly expands into new markets, it will likely begin considering an order for more widebodies. For flights to the US or beyond, the A350 could provide Vistara with the right capacity at the right time.
Time to go
Most of this remains speculation for now. Both Air India and Vistara have had a difficult year and are unlikely to sign multi-billion orders for the A350.
However, India’s international market is nowhere near its maximum capacity and will likely bounce back in the coming years as borders reopen. When traffic returns, the A350 might have a chance at making an entry in India.
What do you think about the future of the A350 in India? Will any airline order it? Let us know in the comments!