India is gaining a lot of attention at the moment in the aviation world thanks to some pretty big aircraft orders, expanding route networks, and the reinvention of the national carrier Air India after years of financial struggles.
India as a country is becoming more mobile and its growing population is providing steady demand for domestic travel by air in particular (alongside the strained railway network).
To cope, India is building scores of new airports across the country and upgrading infrastructure at others. And as a result, there’s a lot of competition amongst the country’s airlines, both low-cost and full service.
Here’s a summary of India’s biggest airlines:
The national carrier, founded in 1932 and one of the biggest names in Indian aviation.
Having suffered years of financial struggles and a declining reputation amongst foreign passengers in particular, Air India has suffered a decline.
However, recently it was purchased by Tata Sons and is undergoing a renaissance thanks to huge new aircraft orders, revitalised onboard experience, and the upcoming merger with Vistara (see below).
As a result you’ll likely see a lot more of Air India in the coming years.
- 18x Airbus A319
- 9x Airbus A320-200
- 27x Airbus A320neo (+ 161 on order)
- 14x Airbus A321-200
- 4x Airbus A321neo (+70 on order)
- 13x Boeing 777-300ER (+6 on order)
- 27x Boeing 787-8
- +34x Airbus A350-1000 on order
- +190x Boeing 737 MAX 8/10 on order
- +10x Boeing 777-9 on order
- +20x Boeing 787-9 on order
Air India Express
The low-cost subsidiary of Air India. It operates a fleet of Boeing 737s on domestic and regional services, and is about to be merged with AirAsia India following the purchase of Air India by Tata.
- 28x Boeing 737-800
Formerly known as AirAsia India, this carrier was renamed AIX Connect in December 2022. It is soon to be merged with Air India Express to become one large low-cost carrier.
- 23x Airbus A320-200
- 5x Airbus A320neo
A newcomer to the Indian airline scene. Akasa Air is a low-cost airline which began services in August 2022 using new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
Pitting itself against the established carriers, the airline is nevertheless making waves and attracting customers.
- 19x Boeing 737 MAX 8 (+4 on order)
- +53 Boeing 737 MAX 8-200 on order
The largest regional airline in India. Alliance Air began life in 1986 and was later known as Air India Regional. It changed to its current name in 1996.
With hubs at many large airports, Alliance flies to smaller airports using turboprop aircraft, linking in with mainline Air India service.
- 2x ATR 42-600
- 18x ATR 72-600
- 1x HAL Do228
Go First, founded as GoAir in 2005, is an Indian low-cost carrier based at Mumbai, with services out of hubs across India.
The airline has experienced financial difficulties of late, and at the time of writing has ceased flying. It hopes to resume in the near future.
- 5x Airbus A320-200
- 49x Airbus A320neo (+88 on order)
IndiGo is the largest airline in India by fleet size, and recently placed an order 500 Airbus A320 family aircraft – the largest single aircraft order ever placed by an airline.
This low-cost carrier has big ambitions and has gained a strong following and customer base. It flies an extensive domestic and regional network, and the recent addition of Boeing 777 aircraft is allowing it to venture further afield.
- 21x Airbus A320-200
- 166x Airbus A320neo
- 85x Airbus A321neo
- 2x Airbus A321-200P2F
- 2x Boeing 777-300ER
- 39x ATR 72-600 (+11 on order)
- + 979 Airbus A320neo/321neo/321XLR on order
One of the biggest carriers of passengers in India is SpiceJet. This low-cost airline began flying in 2005 and covers a large network of destinations in India, Asia and the Middle East.
- 3x Boeing 737-700
- 3x Boeing 737-700BDSF (+17 on order)
- 17x Boeing 737-800
- 2x Boeing 737-900ER
- 11x Boeing 737 MAX 8 (+194 on order)
- 32x De Havilland Canada Q400/Q400NG
- 3x De Havilland Canada Q400F
VistaraA relatively new startup, beginning services in 2015, Vistara chose to focus on full service rather than low-cost operations, with Singapore Airlines as a shareholder.
It quickly became a takeover target and is now in the process of being merged into Air India.
- 46x Airbus A320neo (+6 on order)
- 4x Airbus A321neoLR
- 6x Airbus A321neo
- 2x Boeing 737-800
- 4x Boeing 787-9 (+2 on order)
Main image: Nadir Hashmi