India’s Akasa Air nears order for 150 Boeing jets – sources

By Aditi Shah and Aditya Kalra

NEW DELHI (Reuters) -Indian budget carrier Akasa Air is set to close an order for around 150 Boeing 737 MAX narrowbody planes, two sources said, its latest bid to tap the travel boom in the world’s fastest-growing aviation market.

Contract negotiations are ongoing and a deal is expected to be announced at Wings India, the country’s largest civil aviation event scheduled for Jan. 18-21, said the two sources familiar with the ongoing talks.

An Akasa spokesperson said the airline does not comment on speculation, while Boeing did not respond to Reuters’ queries. The sources declined to be named as the plane order details are confidential.

Reuters is first to report details of the deal, which comes on top of Akasa’s existing order book for 76 Boeing 737 MAX planes.

Akasa is India’s newest airline and has garnered market share of 4% since it started flying in 2022, against IndiGo’s 60% and Tata Group airlines’ combined 26%.

Its Chief Commercial Officer Praveen Iyer told Indian newspaper Business Line in December that Akasa planned to announce a three-digit aircraft order in early 2024, without sharing any details.

The first source said its new order for around 150 planes is likely to include some future purchasing options.

The airline currently flies only domestically, with a fleet of around two dozen planes. It was hit last year by the abrupt departure of about a tenth of its pilots and had warned it was flying less as a result, costing it market share. It has since said the issue is behind it.

Both sources said Akasa’s new plane order is aimed at fuelling its domestic and international expansion, with the narrowbody Boeing planes being ordered equipped to fly to nearby foreign destinations like Southeast Asia and the Middle East from India.

Indian carriers are trying to keep pace with soaring demand for air travel which has surged post-COVID, sending industry records tumbling amid diminishing production slots even as plane manufacturers are struggling to meet output goals.

IndiGo in June placed a record order for 500 Airbus narrowbody planes, eclipsing Air India’s purchase of 470 combined jets from Airbus and Boeing earlier in the year.

Akasa’s order will be another win for Boeing, which has been lagging behind Airbus in the fast-growing Indian market, where its other customers include SpiceJet.

(Reporting by Aditi Shah and Aditya Kalra in New Delhi; Editing by Jan Harvey)