AirAsia Aviation Group is moving into the market for electric air taxis through a deal with lessor Avolon for aircraft from Britain’s Vertical Aerospace.
The airline group announced at the Singapore Airshow on February 16, 2022 that it had signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) to lease a minimum of 100 VX4 electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.
AirAsia said it will work with Avolon to develop urban air mobility in Southeast Asia, including an eVTOL ride-sharing platform using its AirAsia Super App.
The move into urban air mobility comes as AirAsia shakes up its structure and diversifies its business model as it emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are now much more than just an airline with over 20 products and services on our super app leveraging off each other including flights, hotels, food, retail, delivery, ride hailing and more,” Tony Fernandes, chief executive of parent company Capital A, commented in a press release.
Fernandes said he was excited by the possibility for zero-emission short trips via air taxi in Southeast Asia.
“In the VX4, we have identified what we believe will be the eVTOL aircraft of choice and we are thrilled to be the launch airline for the aircraft in Southeast Asia.”
Dublin-based Avolon ordered 500 VX4 eVTOL aircraft from Vertical Aerospace in a $2 billion deal in June 2021. Avolon has since placed 250 of those VX4 aircraft with Gol and Grupo Comporte in Brazil, and up to 100 with Japan Airlines. The deal with AirAsia for at least 100 aircraft means it has now placed up to 90% of its initial orderbook for the eVTOL aircraft.
“We look forward to working with Tony, and the AirAsia team, on their eVTOL journey,” Avolon CEO Dómhnal Slattery declared. “Together we will develop a ride-sharing platform and bring the zero emissions VX4 aircraft into service, positioning AirAsia as the operator of choice for sustainable air travel in the region.”
There are many companies involved in the market for flying taxis, including Joby, Eve and Vertical Aerospace. But certification and infrastructure requirements remain challenges for the new technology.
“Avolon and AirAsia will form a working group to pursue local certification, research potential market opportunities and infrastructure requirements for UAM,” the two companies commented in the press statement.