Malaysian start-up carrier AirAsia is planning to acquire two widebody aircraft in early 1998 to expand services within Asia and open up flights to the Middle East and Europe.

The airline says that it has signed a letter of intent with an unidentified third-party broker to sublease two Airbus A310-300s, but has not yet secured any specific aircraft. It wants to lease them for around two years, including an initial start-up wet-lease period.

Air Asia already operates two Boeing 737-300s on lease from General Electric Capital Aviation Services, but needs longer-range aircraft to open services to Shanghai and possibly Beijing. It now operates scheduled flights to Jakarta, Kaohsiung and Taipei, as well as charter services to Shenzhen and Subic Bay.

According to Air Asia general manager Mohammed Nazri, the airline expects to be given permission to operate to Shanghai on a codeshare basis from the end of the year. It is seeking to fly to London Gatwick, Heathrow or Manchester in the UK via the Middle East, India and additional destinations in Indonesia.

The A310s and 737s are intended as an interim solution and the carrier is working on a longer-term plan to acquire a larger fleet of narrowbody and widebody aircraft.

Source: Flight International