AirAsia X may replace A350s with A330neos

17 Jul 2014 / 05:38 H.

FARNBOROUGH : AirAsia X Bhd, which expects to return to the black in the second half of the year as its year-old routes break even, may replace its A350 orders with the A330-900 neos to fit in with its focus on mid-haul routes, according to its CEO Azran Osman-Rani.
The medium haul low-cost carrier on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding for 50 A330 -900neo aircraft at a list price of US$13.8 billion.
AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani told the Malaysian media after the signing ceremony yesterday that one of the key elements of the deal was the flexibility of replacing its existing orders with the A330 neos should it make sense for the airline to do so.
He explained that while the substitution clause is uncommon, it is one of the advantages of being a launch customer for the aircraft launched on Monday. AirAsia X will be the first commercial airline to receive the A330-900 neos when the delivery schedule starts in Q4 of 2017.
AirAsia X ordered 10 A350 XWB in May 2012, just months after the airline decided to suspend flights to London, Paris citing cost pressures. The airline then had envisaged that the entry of the A350 into its fleet would enable it to revisit the European routes.
The airline's business model however has evolved as AirAsia group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes points out to a hub and spoke kind of model, with the advent of AirAsia X Indonesia and AirAsia X Thailand and now plans for AirAsia X Japan and AirAsia X India in the future.
"The best thing about AirAsia is we continue to innovate. Azran's fly-thru service on some flights was an experiment in that and we are still the lowest cost carrier," he said.
Fernandes sees AirAsia X Japan potential in routes to the Americas, while AirAsia X India to open routes to Africa and London.
With such a strategy, the A330 neo would work just as well as the A350, originally to be delivered in 2015 but now only due in 2019.
"What we are doing is buying at a very low price, a series of strategic option.. the best thing is I don't have to decide now," Azran said.
He added that while the airline has started talks with the authorities in Japan and India on affiliates there, it would only make sense for the medium haul low cost carrier to set up there once its sister company builds its presence to about 20-30 aicraft there.
The latest MoU from AirAsia X further consolidates the position of the AirAsia Group as one of Airbus' largest airline customers in the world. In total the group has ordered 536 Airbus aircraft excluding today's MoU.
The A330-900neo is one of two new members of the Airbus widebody family launched on Monday with first deliveries scheduled to start in Q4 2017.
The other member is the A330-800neo.
The A330 neo is expected to reduce fuel consumption by 14% per seat, making it the most cost efficient, medium range widebody aircraft on the market.

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