President Biden Announces Air India’s 220 Aircraft Purchase From Boeing

While it’s been an open secret that Air India has been about to purchase nearly 500 aircraft in an order split between Boeing and Airbus, the Airbus order was announced… but we were waiting for the order from Boeing. The reason why the two orders weren’t announced together is now clear. It awaited President Biden so that he could be a part of the announcement.

This purchase will support over 1 million American jobs across 44 states, and many will not require a four-year college degree, said President Joe Biden. “This announcement also reflects the strength of the U.S.-India economic partnership. Together with Prime Minister Modi, I look forward to deepening our partnership even further as we continue to confront shared global challenges—creating a more secure and prosperous future for all of our citizens.

This is the third largest aircraft order by list price dollar value and second largest by aircraft quantity. And involving political leadership is certainly not unique to this administration. And President Biden’s announcement helps Boeing. It even sends the signal to others around the globe that ordering from Boeing wins credit with the U.S. government.

While Air India is now a private company, it’s certain that delivery slots aren’t the only reason they’re splitting their order between the two largest airframe manufacturers. They’ll operate Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies, Airbus A350s and Boeing 787s for long haul and they’re even committing to the long-delayed new Boeing 777 project that hasn’t seen broad interest in years (albeit just for 10 aircraft, and we don’t know how how many of the planes they’ve ordered will ultimately be firmed and delivered).

Indeed, there’s a reason Boeing decided to move its headquarters to the DC area, after the subsidies it received in Chicago ran out. They know that their business success relies on being an artifact of the state – from regulatory concerns over their safety practices, to defense contracting, to leveraging federal diplomacy to sell airplanes (and receiving subsidies, such as via the Export-Import bank for those).

And the decision to buy airplanes is almost always political. They are very large, high profile purchases that get media coverage. Many carriers around the world are state-backed. And even in the U.S. where airlines are making mostly economic decisions about aircraft purchases, P.R. effects (imagine Seattle-based Alaska dropping Boeing!) and international trade considerations (where a plane is built, whether the price is subsidized, and ultimately whether the manufacturer will be able to deliver given these geopolitical issues) come into play.

(HT: @crucker)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. But do they have the money to pay for them? Wouldn’t surprise me that half-way through the delivery they cancel du to insufficient funds. Or Boeing cancel due to lack of payment.

  2. One of the very few global intercontinental airlines I flatly refuse to fly, no matter the aircraft.

  3. Well, IMO, an airline company might purchase every single new aircraft ever made or planned, BUT, if that airline cannot fly those aircraft filled with PAYING, HAPPY, SATISFIED, passengers, what’s the point? Air India is burdened with an AWFUL reputation…and I get it, new ownership, etc. But the problems of AI’s past will not soon nor easily be erased and replaced.

  4. I always find these aircraft purchases funny in how pointless they are. There are only 2 places to buy airplanes from, and unless they plan on going out of business, they have to buy new planes at some point. It’s like me saying I’ll be buying a new car in 10 years. Unless I’m dead, of course at some point I’ll need a new car.

  5. I don’t understand the hate for Air India. Its just had new ownership, it will take time to change. And its difficult to run a airline in India as its a price sensitive market where the middle eastern carriers pump money to get connecting traffic through their hubs. Finally things have started to change as emirates has maxed their allowed capacity to India.

  6. @Gary

    At one point in time, one ex CEO of Alaska, did, in fact ditch Boeing for MD. While he accomplished his objective, he lost his job. I do forget his name, but remembered a conversation I had with him on a flight we flew side by side in first from DCA to SEA. He told me that MD-80 superior to 737. Guess he lost more than his decision.

  7. Hmmm . . .liberal human rights champion Biden embraces right-wing Modi (remember “Howdy Modi”) because he buys Boeing and isn’t China. Where’s all the kvetching? Might make one cynical.

  8. The US would help Boeing sales just as much with the company HQed in Texas as if HQed in the DC area (outside or DC). Even before Boeing bailed on Washington State as its HQ location to camp in Illinois, there was no shortage of government support for Boeing sales.

    The move to the DC area is because it’s more fashionable and easier to keep and attract relocating types to the DC area than to many other areas in the country and because the flight network out of the DC area works better for the company.

    We may already see growing acknowledgment of how this game of building up the economies of big, large population countries poses longer term strategic threats to global peace and is especially bad for American prosperity and liberal democracy in general. But losing sales out to the Europeans, the Chinese, the Brazilians, the Russians or even the Canadians is seen as worse, and so between that, lobbying, and their distributed manufacturing supply chain they find plenty of support from the US Government regardless of where in the US Boeing has its CEO’s office.

  9. As if Biden or his idiotic minions (and puppetmasters) have absolutely nothing to do with this. But it’s amusingly transparent how his people want in on this for propaganda purposes.

  10. There is nothing new about an Administration getting on board trying to help sell expensive US company hardware such as this and to get affiliated with such sales. It’s been done by Republican and Democratic administrations going back at least as long as there have been frequent flyer programs.

    If you pay attention to major state dinner events abroad and other such trips involving the President and other senior administration officials, it’s not rare for company CEOs to come along for the show and do more than merely hobnob with compatriots.

  11. Jack the Lad,

    Obama was the first US President to open the door and get into bed with the fascist Modi and downplay concerns about human rights being violated by the Modi machine in India. Obama did that embrace of Modi despite all the evidence of how Modi and his fellow Hitler-fans in the RSS/BJP are on a weird path of both: a) trying to do to India sort of what neo-Nazis want done in Europe and in North America; and playing out of the Israeli government playbook in India. While there should be no doubt that Modi and Modi fanboys generally prefer Trump over Democrats as President of the US, the Democrats too are
    interested in trying to support India as a counterweight to China and to keep Indian-American voters and donors in the good books.

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