Richard Branson and Tony Fernandes – can anyone think of a more flamboyant combination?
Below Branson is with Fernandes earlier today after announcing Virgin Group’s 20% investment in Fernandes’ new long-haul low-cost carrier AirAsia X. From left to right are two AirAsia flight attendants; AirAsia deputy group chief executive Kamarudin Meranun; AirAsia X chairman Kalimullah Hassan; Fernandes, director and founder of AirAsia X; Branson, chairman and founder of the Virgin Group; Malaysian Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop; and AirAsia X chief executive Azran Osman-Rani.
Branson, who flew into Kuala Lumpur for today's event from San Francisco, where he celebrated the launch of Virgin America, did not show any jetlag. He found the time to put on a traditional Malaysian custom, a publicity stunt which is sure to make the front pages tomorrow in newspapers across Malaysia and throughout the world.
AirAsia X plans to launch flights in October from Kuala Lumpur to the Gold Coast in Australia with one leased Airbus A330. Flights to London Stansted will likely be added in the second half of next year with a stopover in the Middle East. Other planned destinations include Avalon Airport outside Melbourne, Manchester in the UK and Hangzhou in China.
AirAsia, a publicly traded Malaysian short-haul low-cost carrier with affiliates in Indonesia and Thailand, also owns 20% of the new long-haul carrier. The remaining 60% is owned by a consortium of AirAsia owners, including Fernandes, who founded AirAsia and still serves as its chief executive.
AirAsia X has already ordered 10 A330s for delivery from next August and is looking to lease additional A330s to provide interim capacity beyond the one aircraft that will be placed into service in October. AirAsia X will squeeze 396 passengers into their purchased A330s. To do that requires a tight nine seat abreast configuration instead of the normal eight abreast configuration. Ouch!
For those looking for more space, there will be a small business class, which will provide more legroom and a wider seat but will not have a separate service. It will be priced at premium economy fare levels.
Would you fly AirAsia X?