On Saturday (23 December), Air India scripted history by welcoming the first wide-body A350-900 aircraft, making the Tata Group-owned airline the first aircraft operator in India to have this type of aircraft in its fleet.
Sporting a new brand livery, the aircraft, registered as VT-JRA, touched down at the national capital's Indira Gandhi International Airport at 1346 hrs, from European aviation major Airbus' Toulouse facility in France.
The delivery flight, operated using a special call sign AI350, was welcomed by Air India representatives. Air India’s Senior Commander Captain Monika Batra Vaidya, who is among the first few Indian pilots to be trained on A350, was on board as an observer.
The arrival of the first Airbus A350-900 is, in many ways, "a declaration of Indian aviation's resurgence on the world stage," Air India Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Campbell Wilson said.
"As a symbol of the new age of flying, the A350 promises a world-class, long-haul travel experience on our non-stop routes. Its excellent flight economics and technology underscore our dedication to commercially successful operations and to achieving our sustainability goals," Wilson added.
The aircraft is the first of Air India’s 20 Airbus A350-900 on order, with five more scheduled for deliveries through March 2024. It may be recalled that in June 2023, Air India signed a purchase agreement to acquire 250 aircraft from Airbus.
It includes 40 wide-body planes on order, with a 50:50 split – 20 each of A350-900 and A350-1000 aircraft. The order also includes 210 narrow-body aircraft including 140 A321neo and 70 A320neo planes.
Further, the airline has announced that the new A350 aircraft will enter commercial service in January next year, initially operating domestically for crew familiarisation, followed by longer-haul flying to destinations across continents.
It also said that the schedule of commercial operations of the A350 will be announced in the coming weeks.
The A350-900 aircraft comes in a three-class cabin configuration with 316 seats designed by Collins Aerospace and includes 28 private business class suites with full-flat beds, 24 premium economy seats with extra legroom and 264 spacious economy class seats.
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