AirAsia X, the long-haul unit of the AirAsia Group, sings a firm order for 12 A330-900 and 30 A321XLR aircraft. Despite the fact that the A330neo order includes almost three times fewer aircraft than previously announced, AirAsia group remains the biggest customer of both aircraft types.
Opting for long haul
AirAsia X finalized a firm order for 30 single-aisle A321XLR aircraft, the Toulouse-based manufacturer announced via a statement on August 30, 2019. The airline group already is the largest airline customer for the A320 Family, according to the manufacturer. It already has a total of 622 aircraft orders across the whole A320 Family, of which 353 are unfilled orders for A321neo.
“[…] the A321XLR offers the longest flying range of any single-aisle aircraft and will enable us to introduce services to new destinations,” Tony Fernandes, Chief Executive Officer, AirAsia Group is quoted in a statement as saying.
Airbus officially launched the A321XLR (Xtra Long Range) on the first day of the Paris Air Show, on June 17, 2019. The aircraft is the long-range version of Airbus A321neo Family. In particular, the new aircraft is going to have a 15% longer range than its predecessor, the A321LR (Long Range). With a range of up to 4,700nm (8,700 km) in a two-class layout, the single-aisle aircraft with an extended range is to be able to operate many long-haul routes and is designed to appeal to low-cost airlines wishing to develop their business in the long haul. The A321XLR is scheduled to enter service in 2023.
A330neo order shrinks from 100 to 78
In addition to thirty single-aisles, AirAsia X also committed to 12 A330-900s, boosting its total orders to 78 aircraft of the type and reaffirming its status as “the largest airline customer of the type,” as Airbus notes.
“The A330neo’s revolutionary new features and modifications will move our long-haul service sectors up to a higher level and allow AirAsia X to look at expanding beyond the eight-hour flight radius, such as to Europe, for example,” Rafidah Aziz, Chairman of AirAsia X Berhad is quoted in a statement as saying.
However, the order for 12 widebodies is much smaller than previously expected. Back in 2018, AirAsia X used the Farnborough Air Show as the opportunity to announce an order for 66 A330-900s with an option for 34 widebodies. With it, the total number of aircraft ordered by the airline was supposed to increase to 100.
Back at the time, the airline was planning to operate the A330neo out of its bases in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. It was proud of the prospect of becoming the first airline in Asia to operate the airliner, once the deliveries started in Q4 2019. However, by November 2018, the airline was already reconsidering the 34 A330neo option in favor of smaller A321neo instead.
Since then, AirAsia X group has already leased two A330-900s, both of which are currently operated by Thai AirAsia X, according to Planespotters.net data. In its fleet of 272 aircraft, the group has a total of 36 older generation A330s ‒ the A330-300.
The A330neo Family is the new generation A330, built on the previous A330 Family with a promise to reduce fuel consumption by 25% per seat and increase range by up to 1,500 nm. The program was launched in July 2014. The A330neo comes in two versions: the A330-800 and A330-900, sharing 99% commonality. Both aircraft are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines and features a new wing with an increased span and new A350 XWB-inspired Sharklets.
The longer version, A330-900, accommodates 287 seats in a typical three-class layout or up to 440 for high-density configurations and can provide a range of 7,200 nautical miles. The airliner was certified in September 2018 and, after being delivered to the launch customer TAP Air Portugal in November, began operations at the end of 2018.