AirAsia X order for Airbus A350s imminent

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AirAsia X, the Malaysia-based long-haul low-cost airline, is likely to place an order for the Airbus A350 shortly as part of its expansion plans.

The carrier, an associate of Southeast Asian short-haul low-cost airline AirAsia, had been deliberating between the A350 and the Boeing 787. However, AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes says that it has made a decision.

"We have pretty must settled on the A350 and an announcement is imminent," says Fernandes. "It is clearer in our mind that the A350 is a replacement for the [Airbus] A340s. It can last longer on the 4-8h mark that is AirAsia X's focus."

He did not say how many aircraft would be ordered, but AirAsia X has said before that it could buy up to 25 aircraft. A timeline for the delivery of the A350s has not been established.

AirAsia X will eventually have a fleet mix of Airbus A330s and A350s, says Fernandes, who added in an interview with Airline Business that this would help it to serve the the bulk of its growth markets that are within a 4-8h mark out of Kuala Lumpur. This includes destinations in Japan, South Korea, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, India and China.

AirAsia has a 16% stake in the long-haul operation. Aero Ventures, which Fernandes started with other prominent Malaysians and Air Canada's Robert Milton, owns 48% of the long-haul operation. The other investors are Richard Branson's Virgin Group [16%], Bahrain's Manara [10%] and Japan's Orix [10%].

"AirAsia X is a wonderful addition; it brings the brand to another level. Look, it is sexier flying to London and Melbourne than Bandung," says Fernandes.

"But without AirAsia's short-haul market and the connectivity to Southeast Asia it offers, there would be no AirAsia X. That is why it will be hard for anyone else to emulate it. Look at Oasis Hong Kong - what else did they offer apart from flights to London? Is it any surprise that they had to shut down?"

Read the Airline Business interview with Tony Fernandes here.