AirAsia X on Friday became a new customer for the Airbus A321XLR, though it decided to buy only 12 A330-900s rather than 34 as announced during the Farnborough Air Show in July last year. The commitment for an additional 34 A330neos was presented as an order at that time; however, it was never included in Airbus’s order book. This raised speculation that the Malaysian low-cost carrier group was looking at other options for its long-haul unit. It did, and today signed a firm order for 30 A321XLRs in Kuala Lumpur.
The introduction of Airbus's new long-range narrowbody “provides AirAsia X with greater flexibility to better manage capacity on key routes as well as respond to seasonal demand,” the airline said. It added that the A321XLR also gives AirAsia X “an advantage when it comes to exploring opportunities to operate nonstop flights between Southeast Asia and secondary cities in countries like Australia, China, and Japan.” Airbus launched the A321XLR at the Paris Air Show in June. The variant will become available from 2023 and will have a range of up to 4,700 nm, according to the European OEM.
The firm contract for 12 additional A330-900s takes AirAsia’s total order of the type from 66 to 78, reaffirming the carrier’s status as the largest airline customer for the type. It took delivery of its first A330neo—on lease from lessor Avolon—in August. The aircraft is operated by AirAsia X Thailand and features 377 seats in a two-class configuration, comprising 12 premium flatbeds and 365 economy class seats. The A330neo joined AirAsia X’s fleet of 36 A330-300s operating on services to points within the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.
The A321XLR order sees the wider AirAsia Group strengthen its position as the world’s largest airline customer for the A320 family, having now ordered a total of 622 aircraft.
“AirAsia X has been the pioneer of the long-haul, low-cost model in the Asia-Pacific region,” Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury commented at the signing. He described the new order for the A330neo and A321XLR as “a true endorsement of the Airbus solution to meet mid-market demand with a combination of single-aisle and widebody products. This powerful solution will provide AirAsia X with the lowest possible operating costs to expand its network and enable even more people to fly farther than ever before.”
AirAsia also inked a memorandum of agreement with Airbus to support the development of the Malaysian aerospace industry. As part of the deal, Airbus will expand its maintenance, repair and overhaul presence in Malaysia and establish the Airbus Malaysia Digital Initiative to enhance the competitiveness of the local aerospace sector through the application of new digital technologies, in line with the government’s vision to make Malaysia a regional aerospace hub.
In addition, Airbus will boost its commitment to the Aerospace Malaysia Innovation Centre (AMIC). The group is a founding member of AMIC and is increasing its funding for joint research programs, including into the production of sustainable aviation biofuels in Malaysia. “This is a significant day for the future of aviation in Malaysia,” AirAsia Group executive chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun said. “Airbus’s commitment to investing to expand its industrial presence here will deliver significant benefits to the economy, through job creation and by transforming industry best practice."