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AirAsia X eyes larger aircraft in order rethink


AIRASIA X , the longhaul arm of the region’s biggest budget carrier, is looking at swapping an order for 66 Airbus SE A330neo widebody jets to larger A350s in a bid to boost capacity on its busiest routes, according to a Bloomberg report.

A review of the Kuala Lumpur-based discounter’s fleet requirements is under way and could result in a plan to trade up to the bigger widebody, Tony Fernandes, chief executive officer of the AirAsia group, said in an interview yesterday, adding that the Boeing Co 787 Dreamliner will also be considered.
AirAsia X will remain focused on routes within four to eight hours’ flying time and would deploy the A350s on those services just as it had aimed to do with the A330s, Fernandes said, adding that a switch wouldn’t indicate a revival of plans to serve Europe. 
For Airbus, an order would shrink the 212plane A330neo backlog while bolstering an A350 programme that has itself suffered recent setbacks.
“Over the last 10 years we’ve been tweaking the model,” the CEO said. “Now that we kind of know what we want to do, we’re looking at the fleet. We’re toying with the A350. If we went A350, we wouldn’t use the A330neo anymore, we’d go all A350.”
The move would mark an about face from previous plans. In 2015, the Malaysian operator began looking at flipping the ten A350s due for delivery from 2021 to A330neos, with the unit’s chief Benyamin Ismail saying the smaller jet was cheaper and just as economical.
While an order rethink could be lucrative for Airbus, with the A350900 having a sticker price of US$311.2mil versus US$290.6mil for the A330neo, the switch would come as a complication given the airline’s status as a launch customer for the plane.
Fernandes said the first jet is due in December 2018, though the date is “slipping” after already being put back amid development issues with RollsRoyce Holdings Plc’s Trent 7000 engine. The company will send representatives to the model’s first flight, scheduled for Oct 18 in Toulouse, he said.
AirAsia X is also exploring the business case for adding Airbus A321neos to serve routes to India and China that might not support bigger planes, Fernandes said. The main AirAsia shorthaul operation already has orders for more |than 400 upgraded Airbus narrowbodies, including 100 A321 variants.
 

Published : October 17, 2017

By : THE STAR ASIA NEWS NETWORK KUALA LUMPUR