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IA likely to sign pact for 43 Airbus aircraft purchase today

Ashwini Phadnis

New Delhi , Dec. 15

THE four-year-long wait of Indian Airlines to acquire new aircraft could finally end tomorrow.

The airline is all set to ink a Letter of Intent or a term sheet with the European aircraft manufacturer, Airbus Industrie here on Friday for the purchase of 43 aircraft.

While refusing to go into specifics, sources indicated that the LI will spell out the intention of Indian to do business with the aircraft manufacturer and pave the way for a purchase contract to be firmed up and signed so that the process of purchase of the aircraft can also begin.

The exact delivery dates as also the other terms and conditions that have been worked out between IA and Airbus will be specified in the LI.

The decision of the airline to go ahead with the purchase has already been communicated to the Government and the airline board, sources said.

The airline board had, in April 2002, cleared the proposal for acquiring 19-Airbus A-319 aircraft, four A-320s and 20 A-321s.

But it was only in September this year that the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, announced that the Government had cleared the proposal for acquiring 43 Airbus aircraft in a deal valued at more than $2 billion.

The delivery of the aircraft is scheduled to start in September next year and the last of the planes will arrive by March 2010.

While the aircraft will have a two-class configuration, a decision is yet to be taken on the internal specifications such as whether there should be a drop-down television, a television in the arm rest of each seat or on the back of the head rest. The airline last purchased was more than a decade ago when the Airbus A-320 joined the fleet and has been leasing aircraft since to meet the growing market demand.

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