Air India on Thursday inducted the first Airbus 320 neo aircraft, that burns less fuel, into its fleet and plans to lease 13 more such planes this year. The A320 neo (new engine option) aircraft is configured with 162 seats, including 12 in the business class, and it joins the national carrier's existing fleet of 66 A320 family planes.
After formally inducting the plane, which was given the traditional water canon salute at the international airport here, Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani said 14 A320 neos would be inducted into the fleet this year.The airline would also look at using these planes for international operations, he said.
Air India is the third airline after IndiGo and GoAir to induct A320 neo aircraft. The national carrier is the first domestic operator of neo plane that is powered by CFM engine since the other two are using aircraft with Pratt & Whitney engines.
With the latest induction, Air India Group's fleet size now stands at 138 planes. In a release, Airbus said the airline has become the latest A320 neo operator after taking delivery of the first of 14 aircraft leased from Kuwait-headquartered ALAFCO Aviation Lease And Finance Company.
"The A320 neo family incorporates latest technologies including new generation engines and wing tip devices, which together deliver more than 15 per cent in fuel savings from day one and 20 per cent by 2020," it added.
Air India has plans to induct a total of 29 A320 neos into its fleet by March 2019. While the airline has already tied up with three lessors – ALAFCO, GECAPS and CIT – for 22 planes, the process to select a bidder for the remaining seven such planes is underway.
The induction of the new fuel-efficient aircraft into its fleet is aimed at augmenting the capacity in the domestic market, which is growing at a rate of over 20 per cent. As per the original schedule, Air India was to receive three such planes this fiscal with two of them in January but the delivery was delayed.