Exclusive report by Zairina Zainudin
KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 20 -- AirAsia will start receiving its Airbus A321neo from the end of 2019, which would enable it to further improve efficiency and boost capacity to routes such as Singapore where the slots have been maxed out, chief executive officer Riad Asmat said.
In June, AirAsia announced that it was upsizing its future Airbus single-aisle fleet, converting 253 orders for the A320neo to the larger A321neo version, emerging as the world’s largest customer for the model.
“We (Malaysia) are getting it first. There will be two this year and another two next year,” he told Bernama in an exclusive interview recently.
AirAsia currently has 230 A320 Family aircraft in service, flying out of its hubs in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Japan.
He said the A321neo is still a member of the best-selling A320 Family incorporated with the latest technologies including new-generation engines and Sharklets, which together deliver at least 15 per cent fuel savings at delivery and 20 per cent by 2020.
These planes, Riad said, would be deployed to routes that have maximum efficiency as well as those that don’t have slots anymore such as Singapore.
“Besides Singapore, the other routes that the A321neo can be deployed are Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Bali, Indonesia,” he said, adding the increase in seat capacity is like adding another half a plane.
“Currently, the A320 has 180 seats, to and fro the total capacity for a single trip is 360 seats. The A320neo has 186 seats (372 seats for a single trip). The A321neo has 236 seats and a single trip would mean 472 seats. I can make more money,” he explained.
The A320s can be deployed to other short trips, said Riad.
“So again, I can manage my resources much better, be more efficient in capacity management. It is a bit of a game-changer for us. First, we started off with Boeing B737, then we went to A320, A320neo and now A321neo.”
Besides Malaysia, India, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia would also receive the A321neo.
“These are the markets we see as important growth markets.
“Having too many planes in your country and not fly them is pointless. Our planes need to fly to pay the bills, so most of our aircraft should be going where we see growth,” he said.
AirAsia also has affiliates in Japan. AirAsia X is the long-haul, low-cost affiliate carrier of the AirAsia Group that currently flies to destinations in the Asia Pacific region and beyond.
Asked whether AirAsia is looking for more affiliates or it is already a handful, Riad said: “The adventurous spirit of AirAsia will never die. We look at any feasibility that could eventually work. We don’t know what 2020 and 2021 will be like.”
AirAsia currently serves more than 130 destinations and AirAsia X 31.
“This budget cycle, we are looking into every single path to make sure that we are going strong into next year,” he said, adding: “We are not handfuls, but mindful.”