Key Points:

  • Air India is preparing to debut its first Airbus A350 in December 2023, making it the first Indian carrier to operate this advanced widebody jet.

  • The A350 is part of Air India's larger order of 470 aircraft, with pilots, cabin crew, and engineers undergoing global training for its operations.

  • Initially, the A350 won’t be deployed on ultra-long-haul routes but will serve destinations in Europe, Australia, and Japan, showcasing its range and efficiency.

Air India's Strategic Expansion with Airbus A350

NEW DELHI — In a significant development, Air India is gearing up to welcome its first Airbus A350 aircraft in December 2023, marking its entry as the first Indian airline to operate this state-of-the-art widebody jet. This addition will enable Air India to rival Gulf carriers by offering more non-stop flights to long-haul destinations, leveraging the A350’s extended range and increased capacity.

The airline’s acquisition of four A350s forms part of a substantial order, comprising 470 aircraft from Airbus and Boeing, including 70 widebodies. Air India has already commenced integrating various models from this order into its fleet, such as the A320, A321 NEOs, and Boeing 737 MAX8s. This fleet expansion signals a new era of growth and competitiveness for the airline.

Comprehensive Training for Air India Crew and Engineers

Air India has embarked on a comprehensive training program for its A350 operations, involving pilots, cabin crew, and engineers across various global locations. The first A350-900, featuring Air India’s new livery, was initially intended for Aeroflot but redirected to Air India due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Notably, this aircraft will not include Air India’s latest interior designs, which are expected to be introduced in August 2024.

Pilot training has been a key focus, with six groups already completing simulator training in Singapore. Two additional groups will undergo training monthly, with these pilots also serving as in-house trainers for their peers. Airbus is facilitating simulator training in Singapore, Toulouse, and Miami. Additionally, Air India is set to receive its own A350 simulators for its forthcoming training academy.

Cabin crew trainers have completed their training in Toulouse, France, and will now train other cabin crew members in India. Specialized training on a “door trainer” in Singapore, which simulates the aircraft’s doors, is also part of the preparation. Air India has ordered these door trainers for its own facilities.

Engineering staff from Air India, Vistara, and AIX Connect have undergone training sessions at Airbus’s Toulouse facility, focusing on structural assessment and engine run-up procedures. Some engineers have also collaborated with Singapore International Airline’s maintenance branch, SIA Engineering Company, for hands-on A350 maintenance experience. Additionally, Airbus has provided technical support and guidance through review meetings.

Deployment and Capabilities of Air India’s A350

Initially, the A350 will not operate on ultra-long-haul routes like those to the US. It will first undergo a 20-day evaluation by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and then be deployed on domestic routes for crew familiarization. Air India plans to utilize the A350 on long-haul routes to Europe, Australia, and Japan, capitalizing on its performance and efficiency.

The A350 can accommodate up to 325 passengers in a three-class configuration and boasts a range of up to 15,000 km without refueling. It also offers a more comfortable and quieter cabin experience, with features like larger windows, mood lighting, and a lower cabin altitude.