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AirAsia 20 Years With Airbus And Plans World’s First Low-Cost Network Carrier

by Staff


  • Tony Fernandes of AirAsia unveiled plan for world’s first low-cost network carrier with Airbus at the forefront of their expansion strategy.
  • Leveraging multi-hub model, AirAsia plans to expand to Europe, Africa, US with A330 fleet addition for long-haul network routes.
  • With 647 Airbus aircraft in the orderbook, AirAsia aims to become one of the largest operators of fuel-efficient narrowbodies.

No matter the corporate structure, which company owns the assets, or where the aircraft fly, the face of AirAsia will always be the ever-present and energetic Tony Fernandes. In his inimitable style, Fernandes revealed a plan to launch the world’s first low-cost network carrier, although what that means needs some explanation.

AirAsia – Airbus Partnership

The announcement came during a welcoming ceremony for Airbus Commercial Aircraft CEO Christian Scherer at AirAsia’s corporate headquarters in Malaysia. Hundreds of AirAsia staff, management and CEOs turned out in force at the RedQ headquarters during Scherer’s first visit as CEO to the home of more than 6,000 team members, or Allstars as they are known.

Photo: AirAsia

Airbus has been a crucial part of AirAsia’s evolution from two aircraft in 2001 to more than 200 today, with another 647 aircraft sitting in the Airbus orderbook. On Thursday, AirAsia unveiled plans to launch the world’s first low-cost network carrier, adding it would do that by leveraging 22 years of its unique multi-hub strategy through its airlines in Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and soon Cambodia.

AirAsia LowCost Network carrier

Image: AirAsia

The event was in celebration of the AirAsia – Airbus relationship spanning over 20 years and to mark the new era of the low-cost network. This involves AirAsia operating a hub and spoke model with a number of additional hubs spanning Asia, Europe, Africa and the US in the future.

Fernandes is the CEO of Capital A, the umbrella company for the AirAsia group of airlines, and he said that all of AirAsia’s achievements, including becoming one of the largest and most popular airlines in the world, have been possible through the great partnership with Airbus.

Global hubs for AirAsia

He commented that the continuous developments and improvements to the aircraft, as well as better fuel efficiency, payload, and range capabilities, make Airbus aircraft the best fit for the network expansion plan.

“We look forward to expanding our narrowbody fleet with the introduction of the A321XLR and exploring opportunities with the A321LR, which will gradually replace our workhorse A320 over the coming years from key hubs including Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila and more.

Fernandes said that the new specification aircraft would enable greater flexibility on existing short to medium-haul routes and network expansion to new destinations, including existing secondary markets such as North Asia, Australia and Central Asia from Southeast Asia.

AirAsia Malaysia A321neo

Photo: GingChen | Shutterstock

In that short piece, he hinted at where some of the single-aisle aircraft expansion might come from, but when he turned to the capabilities of the Airbus A330 and A330neo, his idea of a low-cost network carrier became a little clearer. He said:

“With our widebody Airbus A330 fleet, including the introduction of the A330neo, we are also looking to expand our medium to long-haul network to the European continent, to cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Bratislava, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Africa (Cairo, Nairobi, Cape Town), East Coast America (New York, Miami, Toronto) via Europe and West Coast America (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver) via Japan.”

AirAsia will resume deliveries of Airbus A321neos this year to meet forecast strong demand and expects to take in its first post-pandemic A321neo in June. As more arrive, the group will become one of the largest operators of longer-range, fuel-efficient narrowbody, which it believes will revolutionize the aviation landscape.

AirAsia has an Airbus orderbook of 647 aircraft, consisting of 612 A320 Family and 35 A330 family. It has another 362 A321neo, 20 A321XLR, and 15 A330neo to be delivered over the next decade as it sets its sights on “growing bigger than ever in the future.”

Can AirAsia build a global network of virtual hubs? Let us know in the comments.

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