An announcement was expected already some time ago, but Airbus’ Orders and Deliveries overview over March 2022 finally confirms that AirAsia X has canceled most of its huge order for the A330-900. The ultra-low-cost airline retains just fifteen in the order book but cancels 63, which is a huge setback for the A330neo program. A330neo gets a blow as AirAsia X cancels 63 aircraft.

The cancelation has been in the air since the start of the pandemic when AirAsia X was hit hard by Covid lockdowns that effectively killed its low-cost, long-haul routes within Asia. It also had to defer any plans to launch new services to Europe. AAX, as the airline is known for short, entered a restructuring period that included reducing Rmb 33.7 billion of its liabilities and repaying 0.5 percent of its debt to creditors. Creditors approved the plan last November.

From the start, it was clear that the A330neo-order had to be sacrificed as 78 were too many for the post-Covid era. Now only fifteen remain in the backlog. The history of the A330-900 goes back to December 2014, when AirAsia X ordered 55, increasing the number to 66 later on. In 2018, it reviewed the order and for a while contemplated the Boeing 787-9 as a serious contender. But at the Farnborough Airshow that year, then-Chief Commercial Officer Eric Schulz was happy to celebrate that AirAsia X announced a follow-on order for 34 -900s, bringing the total to 100 A330-900s.

The airline did another review in August 2019, when it reduced the order from 34 to twelve extra A330-900s, bringing the total to 78. These were in the order book until March. AirAsia currently has placed two leased A330-900s with its subsidiary in Thailand. In 2019, AirAsia X also announced an order for thirty A321XLRs, but the latest amendment reduces this too to twenty aircraft.

A330-900 orders are now down to 262

Whereas finding customers for the XLRs will not be a problem, the cancelation of 63 A330-900s is a serious blow for Airbus. It reduces its backlog from 325 to 262 aircraft, with orders from Air Calin (2), Air Lease Corporation (28), Air Senegal (2), Avolon (9, of which some for Condor), BOC Aviation (6), Cebu Pacific (16), CIT Leasing (25), Condor (7), Delta Airlines (35), Garuda Indonesia (12), Iran Air (28), ITA Airways (10), Kuwait Airways (7), Lion Air (2), MG Aviation (2), Middle East Airlines (4), NAS Aviation Services (12), TAP Portugal (12), Virgin Atlantic (8), and twenty for undisclosed customers. The order from Garuda will also most certainly be canceled as the carrier completes its restructuring plan. Of the smaller A330-800, only eleven have been ordered.

While Airbus improved the A330 into the A330neo in 2014 with new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines and offering the AirSpace cabin, it shares 95 percent commonality with its predecessor. These were very successful and sold 684 of the -200 and 784 of the A330-300. While certainly very efficient, the A330neo is seen by many as old-school and no serious competition for the Boeing 787-9 and A350-900, which both come with more seats and range. Yet, new customers like German leisure airline Condor prefer the A330-900 for its fuel efficiency of 2.1 liters per 100 kilometers, calling it the ‘two-liter aircraft’.  

Meanwhile, AirAsia X is trying to rebuild its network as a smaller and leaner airline. In February, it resumed services to Sydney, and coming Wednesday, it will return to New Delhi for twice-weekly services from Kuala Lumpur. A week later, the carrier will fly its first seasonal service to Seoul Incheon until June 30.   

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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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