Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia Berhad has announced a $12.5-billion firm order to buy 100 A321neo aircraft from Airbus on a rainy second day of the 2016 Farnborough air show. The airline co-owns AirAsia India, the Bengaluru-based airline which operates domestic flights to 10 destinations in India.
Addressing a press conference, Tony Fernandes, CEO, AirAsia Group, said that it was the first time that AirAsia has ordered this aircraft. “Low-cost airlines generally operate around 180-seat aircraft. AirAsia’s A320s are 180 seaters, but now we have moved in a new direction. The A321 aircraft can accommodate 240 seats, but AirAsia A321s will have 236 seats for passenger comfort,” said Fernandes.
The A321 induction begins only in 2019.
This happened in the midst of Farnborough air show participants reporting a lower level of deal making than in recent years. Trade experts expect turbulence ahead. They are analysing growing risks to the global economy – from slowing economic growth in China to Britain’s decision to leave the EU. This could dry up orders or even result in some cancellations.
AirAsia Berhad is the largest A320 operator in the world. The budget airline operated 199 Airbus planes as of the end of March 2016 in India, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines and is poised to start in Japan. This purchase brings AirAsia’s total orders for A320-series planes from Airbus to 575 aircraft.
It is now under speculation whether the A321s will be brought into the Indian market.
Amar Abrol, CEO, AirAsia India, said: “The option is there to draw on the parent. However, every decision will be evaluated commercially.” For now, AirAsia will concentrate on growing its aircraft fleet to 20 so as to begin international operations. “I already have a board-approved target to get to 20 aircraft. I don’t need to wait for A321 to get to 20 aircraft. In the next 24 months, we will certainly get to 20 aircraft,” said Abrol.
Asian budget carriers, following the growth of AirAsia, have purchased hundreds of jet airplanes from Europe’s Airbus Group SE and its US rival Boeing Co.
- In 2013, Indonesia’s PT Lion Mentari Airlines ordered 234 planes from Airbus, the carrier’s second purchase contract for more than 200 aircraft.
- India’s Go Airlines India Pvt. ordered 72 A321neos from Airbus, doubling its total purchases of the model.
- In 2015, Indian budget airline IndiGo ordered 250 Airbus planes for $27 billion.
- India’s Spicejet, too, is poised to place orders for 100 planes in an attempt to catch up with its competitors.
Budget airlines in the Asia-Pacific region are expanding amid a burgeoning travel demand underscoring their ambitious growth plans. The 10-year old budget carrier, IndiGo has become the largest airline in India by market share surpassing everybody. China Southern Airlines Corp. is Asia’s biggest carrier by fleet size, with more than 600 planes.
Air Asia doesn’t want to lag behind and is anticipating that economic growth from India, China and Vietnam will encourage millions of new fliers in Asia – the world’s most populous continent. AirAsia has become a pan-Asian budget airline that has grabbed significant market share from other full-service airlines like Singapore Airlines Ltd. and Malaysia Airlines Ltd.
As per Simon Elsegood, an analyst at CAPA Centre for Aviation in Sydney, the Asia-Pacific is going to account for at least a third of all aircraft demand over the next 20 years based on planemakers’ forecasts. There’s particularly strong demand for intra-regional connectivity in Southeast Asia and North Asia, and then there’s very, very strong demand within China itself for domestic flights.