MIAMI — Air India has become the latest A320neo operator, after taking delivery yesterday of its first aircraft (VT-EXF • MSN 7459) on a lease from Kuwait’s ALAFCO.

The deal, announced in March 2016 during the India Aviation airshow in Hyderabad, comprises 14 Airbus A320neo, which will be leased for a period of 12 years, with the first six jetliners scheduled for delivery in 2017, six in 2018 and the last two airframes in 2019.

Air India is to date the largest airline in the country, with a fleet of over 110 aircraft. Of these, 69 belong to the Airbus A320 family aircraft (22 A319s, 27 A320s and 20 A321s). The carrier has a long-standing tradition as an A320 operator, as it was the first airline in India to operate the type almost three decades ago.

Mr.Ashwani Lohani and Mr.Srinivasan Dwarakanath_Airbuscopyright_

India ranks among the fastest growing air travel markets in the world. IATA estimates that the market will average an annual growth of 6.4% during the next two decades, and by 2034 it is expected to hit the 256 million passenger/year mark. Despite the current infrastructure constraints, the size and potential of the market has drawn a myriad of new players, including low-cost carriers IndiGo, Vistara and GoAir, all of them A320 operators, as well as SpiceJet with an all-Boeing 737 fleet.

With today’s delivery, India becomes the country with most Airbus A320neo operators, with IndiGo’s taking the lead with 16 A320neos and GoAir with five of the type in service, and now Air India, which also becomes the first CFM LEAP powered NEO operator in the country.

According to Airbus,  over 70 A320neo have been delivered to 18 customers worldwide.