A330s open up new destination options for TransAsia

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TransAsia Airways has no plans to add more widebody aircraft to its fleet in the short term, although these jets have opened up new destination options for the carrier.

The Taiwanese airline took delivery of its first two widebody aircraft, both Airbus A330s, in December 2012 and January this year.

"The range of the aircraft is 5,000nm [9,260km] so it allows us to fly to places seven to eight hours away, which we might do in future," says Andrew Stephen, its general manager of Southeast Asia in an interview with Flightglobal Pro.

At the moment, the carrier is operating the A330s on thick routes between Taipei and Japan, Singapore and Bangkok, where load factors are high. The aircraft are utilised up to 15 hours daily.

"The thought behind the widebodies is that some routes are too big for the A320s and the options are to either add another A320, double the frequency or use a bigger aircraft. [In] some places, however, it is not possible to add a frequency because of slots constraints," says Stephen.

Using an A320 on a thick route also means the airline experiences payload restrictions and is not able to carry any "meaningful cargo".

He adds that the carrier needs "a period of stability" with the A330s before it considers operating the aircraft to destinations such as Hawaii, Guam, Australia and India.

The carrier is also evaluating new generation aircraft such as the Airbus A350, but will not be ordering more widebodies in the short term, says Stephen.

Besides the two A330s, TransAsia operates a fleet of 18 A320 family aircraft and ATR 72 turboprops. It also has six A321s, 12 A321neos and nine ATR 72-600s on order, which will be used to replace aging aircraft and for regional expansion.

"The A330 is a new concept for us. For a carrier to go from narrowbodies to widebodies, it's a big jump," says Stephen. "At the moment our plan is, as the name suggests, to focus on Asia. To fly regionally, which is what we're good at."