Malaysia’s long-haul low-cost airline AirAsia X announced ‘new’ orders with Airbus on August 30, but part of the agreement isn’t that new at all. Actually, it is more of another re-think of its fleet plans.
We are talking about the purchase of 12 additional A330-900s here to complement the 66 that have been in the order book for some time. The 12 were supposed to be 34, a number announced on the last day of the 2018 Farnborough Air Show.
During the press conference, AirAsia X CEO Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz admitted that he had had second thoughts about the follow-on order and confessed his airline had given another proper look at the Boeing 787-9, only to decide to stick with a single fleet of A330neo’s.
A deal that never was: AirAsia X signs MoU for 34 A330-900s at the 2018 Farnborough Air Show.
Thirteen months on and it becomes apparent that AirAsia X has made up its mind. Maybe having a fleet of 100 A330neo’s did seem too big in a travel market that has become volatile and uncertain since July 2018, with China and South Korea seeing a drop in demand.
There is another factor coming into play that can’t be overlooked: the A321XLR. That sub-type didn’t exist last year and was introduced at this year’s Paris Air Show. At 7.400 km, the XLR delivers a lot of range. It is complemental to the A330neo but a formidable machine on thinner routes on which the twin-aisle Airbus might be too big. Hence the decision to buy 30 A321XLRs to give AirAsia X a mixed-fleet from 2023.
“The introduction of the A321XLR provides Air Asia X with greater flexibility to better manage capacity on key routes as well as respond to seasonal demand”, the airline says in a press statement. The type will be used on routes to Australia, China, and Japan. Tan Sri confirmed at the order announcement in Kuala Lumpur that AirAsia X is eying routes to Europe now that the A330-900s allows her to fly the distance.
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.