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.
(Richard Schuurman)

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.

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