Secret talks at Tata's London hotel sealed Air India's historic deal

Secret talks at Tata's London hotel sealed Air India's historic deal

Both Airbus and Boeing were trying to outbid each other, but the size of the order was so big that it was finally divided between the rivals.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Wednesday, February 15, 2023, 05:23 PM IST
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Image: Air India (Representative)

Air India was the country's national carrier till it was sold back to its original parent firm Tata after being pushed to the verge of a shutdown by debts. Post-acquisition, the salt to steel conglomerate has raised the bar for Air India, by merging Vistara into it and ordering new aircraft for the first time in 16 years. The deals for almost 500 airplanes from Boeing and Airbus, have been described as crucial for India's global positioning and took months of negotiations behind closed doors.

Tata hosted giants at its hotel

The historic orders which may propel Air India towards global market leadership, were finalised after secret talks in London. St James' Court, a victorian-era luxury hotel near Buckingham Palace, was the venue for the discussions between summer and Christmas last year. The hotel is owned by the Tata conglomerate, and representatives from aircraft manufacturers, Air India and engine firms set up camp there for months.

Rivals brought together for a greater goal

Both Airbus and Boeing were trying to outbid each other, but the size of the order was so big that it was finally divided between the rivals. The deal was also motivated by a vision for re-establishing sovereignty over its international connectivity, by challenging GCC airlines such as Emirates and Etihad.

The negotiations were also held on the sidelines of a lawsuit where Airbus was locked in a contractual and safety row with Qatar Airways.

Tata's hard dealmaking

Negotiators deployed by Air India reportedly emerged as some of the industry's best dealmakers, and remained sharp in the face of tempting offers.

As for the engines which are crucial for any aviation deal, General Electric made the most, followed by a CFM-Safran joint venture, and Rolls Royce celebrated the sale of 40 A350s by Airbus.

The deal was sealed over Indian curries at the hotel's Michelin-starred eatery Quilon, and was announced by G20 leaders as a gamechanger for global ties.

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