(Bloomberg) -- IndiGo plans to buy as many as 100 Airbus SE A350 widebody airliners, instantly transforming the Indian short-haul specialist into one of the biggest customers for the plane and giving the budget airline an edge in the booming market for long-distance travel. 

The airline signed a firm deal for 30 A350-900 jets, with purchase rights for an additional 70 “for possible future needs under certain conditions,” it said in a statement Thursday. Deliveries will start in 2027, Indigo said, without giving financial details of the accord. 

IndiGo has repeatedly toyed with the idea of introducing long-haul services to tap the growing pool of affluent Indians flying further afield to places such as the UK and Europe. The order will pit IndiGo against Middle-Eastern hub operators such as Emirates and Qatar Airways, as well as a resurgent Air India Ltd., which also placed a major order for the A350 last year as part of a transformational purchase of 470 aircraft.

“Today’s historic moment marks a new chapter for IndiGo and will further shape the future of the airline and for Indian aviation,” Chief Executive Officer Pieter Elbers said in the statement.

Bloomberg reported in March that IndiGo was exploring an order for about 30 A350s, citing people familiar with the plan. 

Indian carriers are stocking up on aircraft to handle increasing volumes in the world’s fastest-growing major aviation market. Air India’s record-breaking order in Feb. 2023 was quickly topped by a 500-unit deal by IndiGo last summer involving Airbus’s A320neo. IndiGo now has a backlog of around 1,000 aircraft.

India’s long-haul and ultra-long haul operations are expected to require as many as 300 widebody aircraft by 2032, CAPA Centre for Aviation’s South Asia CEO Kapil Kaul said at a briefing Thursday. The India-US market alone, which serves 6 million passengers, requires 60 long-haul jets, while domestic carriers only deploy 15 such aircraft currently, he said.

Branching out into long-haul operations is not without risk for budget airlines. In the past, carriers including Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA, AirAsia X and WOW Air have struggled to make the business case work.

The Airbus A350 is the European planemaker’s most advanced airliner, coming in two sizes: the -900 variant and the larger -1000 type. The model sold particularly well last year, in part because long-haul travel has surged back following the pandemic, and in part because rival Boeing Co. is years behind with the certification of its competing 777-9 airliner. 

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