Air India Express is one of those airlines that performs well but somewhat silently. Perhaps it’s got to do with the kind of operations it runs – low-cost medium-haul flights operated by the carrier don’t get as much attention as the full-service routes to locations such as London and New York.

Its bigger cousin Air India has also absorbed much of the limelight in the last decade for various reasons, while Air India Express silently operated a profitable business from smaller Indian cities and towns. And still, when it came to fleet development, it was largely ignored.

But with the Tata Group taking charge, the new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft heading Air India Express’ way could finally give it the space it needs to expand.

Time to expand

Ever since Air India placed that massive order with Boeing and Airbus earlier this year, there have been speculations of all kinds about the utilization of such a large fleet in the future. Of particular interest was the sizable order of 190 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

It is widely believed that the MAX aircraft were ordered while keeping Air India Express in mind, as it already operates an all-Boeing 737 fleet. And while it’ll take some years to get all 190 aircraft, quite a few of those planes are expected to arrive soon.

Air India Express Boeing 737
Photo: WeChitra | Shutterstock

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According to reports, by 2024, Air India Express plans to add 50 737 MAXs, allowing it to expand its network both within India and outside of it. New routes to countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Bangladesh, and the Maldives could be launched after fleet enhancement. Indeed, it seems that Air India Express is finally receiving the support it has always needed from its owners after becoming a private enterprise.

Significant growth expected

Air India Express began operations in 2005 to focus on international medium-haul routes to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Even as it maintained a healthy balance sheet, it never really received a fleet boost that would have allowed it to double down on profitable routes or aggressively add new ones.

The airline had reportedly drawn up a business plan in 2018, which envisioned it to be a 50-aircraft company by 2025. However, the government initially did not give the green signal to the plan, which was further delayed by the disinvestment process and COVID-19.

Air India Express Boeing 737
Photo: WeChitra | Shutterstock

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But things couldn’t be more different now. Soon after the Tata Group took over, it was reported that it would invest between $75 to $100 million in AI Express over the next five years. Last year, a senior executive of the airline also said that around 30 countries are being explored by the carrier, including Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Turkey, and Vietnam.

With its upcoming merger with AirAsia India and its incoming fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft, Air India Express’ fleet will get a massive boost. The airline is already aggressively recruiting pilots and cabin crew as it prepares for capacity increase. It seems the planets have finally aligned for Air India Express to reach its full potential.

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