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Saturday November 1, 2008

AirAsia X takes delivery of first Airbus A330

By YVONNE TAN


Aircraft will help carrier cut fuel consumption and operating costs

TOULOUSE (France): AirAsia X, the long-haul affiliate of low-cost carrier AirAsia Bhd, has taken delivery of its first Airbus A330 which is expected to significantly reduce its fuel consumption and operating costs.

AirAsia X chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani said the aircraft, costing some US$200mil, would be financed via debt financing.

“The brand new A330 will enable us to dramatically reduce operating costs, enabling savings made on fuel consumption to be passed on to customers through lower fares,” he said at the delivery ceremony yesterday.

According to Azran, the cost per available seat kilometre for traditional carriers was around 8 US cents while, with AirAsia X’s new Airbus A330, it was 3.5 US cents.

“With the new A330, AirAsia X would be able to fly to more destinations, providing customers with the widest routes in Asia via its AirAsia connections,” Azran said.

From left: AirAsia X chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat, Airbus SAS president and chief executive officer Tom Enders and AirAsia Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Sri Tony Fernandes at a press conference in Toulouse, France

AirAsia X placed earlier this year an order for 25 Airbus A330 aircraft. Yesterday’s ceremony marked the first delivery of the carrier’s orders.

The Airbus A330 is powered by Rolls Royce engines. The cabin has 383 seats, with optional premium XL seats for extra leg room as well as in-flight entertainment systems.

Launched in November 2007, AirAsia X currently operates its long-haul services to Hangzhou, China, and Gold Goast, Australia.

It will start flying from Kuala Lumpur to Perth and Melbourne on Nov 2 and Nov 12 respectively.

Separately, AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, who was also present at the ceremony, said AirAsia was confident of its growth despite recent soft market conditions.

“There are two ways of dealing with volatility. You can cut routes where, when the market turns, you will find yourself having to reinvest, or you can continue to focus on growth,” he said.

Fernandes said the “worst” time for the carrier was during the severe acute respiratory syndrom (SARS) attack. “And yet we were able to create demand then,” he said.

To a question, he said the carrier was studying the feasibility of ordering A350 aircraft. “We have been looking at this for a while, it would be a natural progression for us,” he said. “As for the A380, we will leave that to the other guys.”

The A380 can seat more than 800 passengers when configured to its maximum capacity. In comparison, the Boeing 747-400 passenger version can accommodate 416 in a typical three-class layout or 524 passengers in a typical two-class layout.

AirAsia has since 2005 placed 175 orders for A320s. To-date, 50 have been delivered.

Meanwhile, AirAsia customers were surprised Wednesday to receive a personal e-mail from Fernandes apologising for congested lines to the carrier’s call centre.

“I have been working very hard with the team at AirAsia to look at reducing our fuel surcharge and you should look forward to the good news in the next couple of months,” he said.


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