Thursday, June 18, 2009

US$2b Airbus jets for AirAsia X

17 June 2009

PETALING JAYA, MALAYSIA - AirAsia Bhd has announced a firm order for 10 Airbus A350 XWB aircraft with an option for five more by its low-cost long-haul carrier AirAsia X, a deal valued at US$2.2 billion (S$3.2 billion).

Deliveries were scheduled for between 2016 and 2018, the company said in a statement yesterday after the announcement was made by AirAsia and Airbus at the Paris Air Show.

It said AirAsia X had selected the A350-900 variant for its fleet, which would be configured to seat 425 in a two-class layout.

AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes said: 'Business is all about timing and long-term strategy. At AirAsia, we have always planned for the long term.'

The new deliveries would further complement AirAsia X's fleet of A330, he said in the statement.

The airline has ordered 25 A330s which are due for delivery through 2015. Two of the aircraft have been delivered so far since October 2008.

AirAsia, on the other hand, is the largest customer for Airbus A320 aircraft. It has a firm order, signed in 2005, for 175 A320s and an option for 50 more. It has taken delivery of 60 of the aircraft and the balance will be delivered by 2014.

'The purchase indicates AirAsia X's ambition to fly farther afield and to serve more destinations than it currently serves, including London, Melbourne, Perth and Gold Coast (Australia) and Tianjin and Hangzhou (China),' Fernandes said.

Fernandes, who is also director and founder of AirAsia X, added that during the current global economic uncertainties, where airlines were cutting routes and grounding staff and aircraft, AirAsia and AirAsia X were determined to fulfil and realise their potential.

'The economic downturn presents AirAsia with an opportunity to gain market share with our low-fare, high-quality business model,' he said.

AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani said it selected the A350 XWB for the step-change it offered, in terms of operating economics and its exceptional passenger appeal.

'We believe the A350 aircraft will be an industry game changer that will allow us to dramatically operate with unprecedented unit costs for long-haul flights to Europe and North America, opening up new tourism markets and exciting destinations.

'With the A350 XWB in our fleet, we will be able to set new standards in the low-cost long-haul market, making it possible for more people to fly farther in comfort at ever more affordable prices,' he said.

AirAsia's passenger volume grew by 21 per cent year-on-year to 3.1 million in the first quarter of 2009. It has so far carried over 70 million guests.

An analyst from a local research house said the purchase of 10-plus-five Airbus A350 was in line with AirAsia X's expansion.

He said this showed the commitment of the management to grow the company. 'We do not see any immediate impact on the company's financial performance but the only concern is the gearing level of the company,' he told StarBiz.

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