‘AirAsia X plans to switch part of Air­bus or­der to nar­row­body jets’

Gulf Times Business - - BUSINESS -

AirAsia X Bhd, which has yet to firm up a ten­ta­tive or­der for 34 Air­bus SE A330­neo wide­body jets placed in July, is con­sid­er­ing switch­ing some of those jets to nar­row­body A321­neos, the CEO of its Malaysian arm said yes­ter­day.

“This is some­thing the team is dis­cussing,” chief ex­ec­u­tive Benyamin Is­mail told re­porters on the side­lines of a CAPA Cen­tre for Avi­a­tion con­fer­ence.

He said the num­ber that could be switched to A321­neos had not been de­cided, adding the air­craft could be used in smaller mar­kets where wide­bod­ies were too big or in off-peak sea­sons.

The A330­neo has a list price of $296.4mn each com­pared with $129.5mn for the smaller A321­neo, though air­lines typ­i­cally re­ceive large dis­counts from man­u­fac­tur­ers.

A switch to nar­row­bod­ies would be a set­back for Air­bus’ A330­neo pro­gramme, which has been hit by a se­ries of mar­ket losses to the ri­val Boe­ing Co 787.

AirAsia X is the largest cus­tomer for the A330­neo, which is more fuel ef­fi­cient than the older A330ceo jets that are part of the air­line’s fleet at present.

Is­mail said the deal signed with Air­bus in July for 34 A330­neos was a me­moran­dum of un­der­stand­ing that had yet to be signed off on by the com­pany’s board, but an ear­lier or­der for 66 A330­neos was firm, with de­liv­er­ies set to start by the end of 2019.

In July, Air­bus called the deal for 34 more A330­neos “firm”, which ob­servers said usu­ally means ap­provals have been re­ceived and de­posits paid.

But the man­u­fac­turer has yet to place the deal in its or­der book.

Is­mail said the air­line had yet to rule out the fu­ture pur­chase of Boe­ing Co 787s as a re­sult of po­ten­tial prob­lems with the Rolls-Royce Hold­ings PLC en­gines on the A330­neo.

Sim­i­lar Rolls-Royce en­gines on the 787s have had sig­nif­i­cant is­sues re­quir­ing main­te­nance fixes.

AirAsia X would con­sider buy­ing 787s with Gen­eral Elec­tric Co en­gines, Is­mail said.

AirAsia X founders Tony Fer­nan­des and Ka­marudin Mer­a­nun last week stepped down as co-CEOs of the group, which has off­shoots in Malaysia, Thai­land and In­done­sia. They will re­main non-ex­ec­u­tive directors.

Nadda Bu­ranasiri, head of the Thai arm since 2014, was ap­pointed as new group CEO.

Is­mail said there were no plans to merge short-haul air­line AirAsia Group Bhd with AirAsia X even though it was pos­si­ble both groups could op­er­ate nar­row­body jets in the fu­ture.

AirAsia X is the largest cus­tomer for the A330­neo, which is more fuel ef­fi­cient than the older A330ceo jets that are part of the air­line’s fleet at present. AirAsia X would con­sider buy­ing 787s with Gen­eral Elec­tric Co en­gines, chief ex­ec­u­tive Benyamin Is­mail said.

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