AirAsia's Fernandes continues call for A330neo

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AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes is continuing to apply pressure on Airbus to re-engine its A330 widebody, even though the company appears to be ruling out the option.

Fernandes, whose AirAsia group has several franchises in countries around Asia and is one of the most valuable customers for Airbus, is in Toulouse for "some important meetings" with the European airframer.

Both AirAsia and Fernandes have a stake in AirAsia X, the Malaysia-based long-haul, low-cost carrier that has a fleet of nine A330-300s. It has orders for another 18 A330s and 10 of the new-generation Airbus A350-900s.

But Fernandes has been pushing Airbus to come up with a re-engined A330, or an A330neo, for some time. This, he feels, will be a better option than the A350-800 that is slated to be a replacement for the longer-range A330-200. Last year, AirAsia cancelled its orders for the -200 variant as it feels that they are not economical enough for long-haul services to Europe.

But an A330neo would interest the airline, and Fernandes said in a reply on his twitter account: "Yes, I want that plane. Honestly, [I] don't think the A350-800 is a good plane."

He went on to say that the A330neo and A350-900 will be the "perfect combination" for AirAsia X.

Last week, Airbus chief operating officer for customers John Leahy said that he will push the company's engineers to look at adapting the sharklets – developed for the A320 narrowbody – to the larger A330 twinjet in order to improve its performance.

Airbus has been tweaking the A330's performance, unveiling a 242t maximum take-off weight version last year that it aims to deliver before mid-2015. But Leahy indicates that new engines for the type will be problematic.

"If you say 're-engined', then I'd say 'no'," he says. If the aircraft is already optimised, he says, "[you] don't put one of these heavy engines on it".