Key Points:

  • Air India Express (AIX) and AirAsia India's merger will bolster AIX’s growth, which had been stagnant in recent years.

  • Following the merger, a total addition of 50 Boeing 737 MAX jets will help in expanding international and domestic routes.

  • Air India has gained advantageously from geopolitical factors; a significant chunk of the Boeing 737 MAX jets they're inducting was initially intended for Chinese carriers.

Air India Express to experience rapid expansion with AirAsia India merger.

NEW DELHI — Air India Express (AIX), the low-cost subsidiary of Air India, is poised for its most significant expansion since its foundation in 2005. This surge in growth comes on the heels of its impending merger with AirAsia India, accompanied by the anticipated addition of approximately 50 Boeing 737 MAX planes by the close of 2024, The Hindu Business Line reports.

Historically, AIX has maintained a stronghold on short-distance international routes. However, the lack of fresh capacity additions in recent years meant its growth plateaued. This trajectory is set to shift in the coming month as AIX welcomes the initial batch of its newly acquired Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

Simultaneously, a merger is in progress between AirAsia India and AIX. This integration will result in an enhanced fleet and a broader network. Presently, AIX boasts a fleet of 26 Boeing 737 NG planes, contrasted with AirAsia India's 28 Airbus A320 aircraft. Although the two carriers are distinct brands at the moment, they will consolidate under the AIX banner later this year, with a full-fledged merger set for March 2024.

A representative from Air India stated, “Our primary objective is consolidating our current operations.” At the moment, combined, both AIX and AirAsia India manage around 290 flights every day.

Looking ahead, AIX anticipates the acquisition of an additional 23 planes by next March. The majority of these will be assigned to international routes. Moreover, there are plans in the pipeline for new domestic journeys originating from Bengaluru, Hyderabad, and various cities in Kerala. The representative added that international flights from Hyderabad are also being considered.

To ensure a smooth merger, management from both airlines has been meticulously mapping out integration strategies over the last few months. Collaborative efforts for route overhauls and network strategy are also underway with Air India. Several of these changes have already been implemented. As one executive highlighted, "Both airlines now share a unified website, customer support, and a merged call center. In-flight menus have been standardized, and a swift check-in and boarding process has been introduced. The forthcoming phase is the assimilation of our workforce."

Moreover, in light of these upcoming expansions, AIX is ramping up its recruitment efforts. An executive mentioned, “We are aggressively hiring and training pilots and crew members.” In just the past one and a half years, the airline has onboarded about 150 pilots, who are also receiving specialized simulator training for the Boeing 737 MAX.

In February, Air India confirmed a colossal order of 470 aircraft, consisting of 250 Airbus and 220 Boeing planes. This procurement has been somewhat serendipitous for Air India, as western restrictions on Russia and delayed approvals from China for the Boeing 737 MAX have turned out to be advantageous. Notably, 55 of the Boeing 737 MAX aircrafts soon to join Air India's ranks were originally constructed for Chinese airlines. However, after Chinese carriers declined their delivery, Boeing repurposed these for other markets, including Air India.