Airbus Working With Air India to Extend Life of Its Oldest A320s

Airbus Group SE said it’s working to extend the life of Air India Ltd.’s narrow-body A320 fleet as the state-owned carrier grapples with competition from low-cost rivals operating much younger aircraft.

Air India, which has 62 A320s, the 17 oldest averaging 18 1/2 years, is tapping an Airbus program introduced in 2008 that allows airlines to operate the single-aisle jets for an extra 10 or 20 years, according to the European manufacturer.

Airbus will subject sections of the aircraft to fatigue tests to determine how long they can operate, with permitted flight hours or cycles increased accordingly, spokesman Justin Dubon said in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg.

State-owned Air India is seeking to keep its jetliners in service for longer as private carriers led by Indigo pile on new planes to meet the country’s growing appetite for air travel. The move aims to address a short-term fleet requirement and is in no sense an airworthiness issue, Dubon said.

New Delhi-based Air India is also discussing new-plane purchases with manufacturers, though surging demand for the latest models means near-term delivery slots aren’t available.

Talks with Airbus focus on the purchase of at least 14 re-engined A320neos worth $1.5 billion at list prices, with current-version planes to be leased as a stop-gap, a person with knowledge of the plans said in May. The airline was also looking at Boeing Co.’s rival 737 Max, another person said in January.

IndiGo last year pledged to buy 250 A320neo planes worth $25.7 billion in what was set to be Airbus’s biggest order by number of aircraft. The deal wasn’t firmed up and has lapsed, though talks are ongoing, the discount airline said recently.

IndiGo, which says it’s building toward a 1,000-jet fleet, ordered 180 A320s worth $15 billion as recently as 2011 and has purchase rights for 100 more.

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