Beleaguered long-haul, low-cost carrier AirAsia X will remain grounded “in the near term”, as it trims its fleet and network amid a record operating loss.

The carrier, which only operates international routes, is also looking to sell two Airbus A330 aircraft to raise cash, and negotiating the early return of aircraft to lessors.

The sale of the two A330s is expected to raise about $100 million in estimated gross proceeds, AirAsia X said in an earlier investor presentation.

While it did not indicate how many aircraft it is looking to return earlier to lessors, the carrier says that it has returned one A330 in July with no termination costs. 

It stated in its first quarter presentation that it will focus on its “remaining fleet of 16 aircraft”, but no updates were given this quarter. 

Cirium fleets data indicates the carrier has a fleet of 23 A330-300s, of which 20 are in storage. AirAsia X owns five A330s, with the rest spread out among various lessors. It also has orders with Airbus for 10 A350s, 76 A330neos as well as 30 A321XLRs.

It was reported in February that the carrier was negotiating delivery deferrals for the A330neos, as well as lease rates and payments.

On its network, AirAsia X says it will continue to impose “aggressive capacity management”, which it put in place in February amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, for the rest of the year.

More unprofitable routes will be removed from the carrier’s network, adding to a growing list of suspended points including Gold Coast, Tokyo Narita and Okinawa.

AirAsia X, which has been impacted badly by international travel restrictions imposed to curb the pandemic’s spread, carried just under 2,300 passengers for the quarter ended 30 June, a far cry from the 1.46 million it flew the same period last year. For the quarter, it operated only repatriation flights, as well as cargo-only flights.

Says the carrier: “The prospect of resuming scheduled flights is intrinsically linked to the easing of travel restrictions and lifting of border controls, as well as the trajectory of the recovery in demand for international air travel.”

The collapse in travel demand, coupled with an international-only operating model, hurt the carrier’s profitability for the quarter.

AirAsia X plunged deeper into the red, posting an operating loss of MYR323 million ($77.4 million) for the quarter.

Revenue tumbled 91% year on year to just MYR91.4 million, amid the grounding which had been in place since March.

AirAsia X managed to shave off some costs for the period, but it was not enough to mitigate the collapse in revenue. Costs fell 58% year on year to MYR481 million, led by a reduction in fuel expenses and other operating expenses.

Net profit for the quarter widened to MYR305 million.

AirAsia X’s Thai unit — also affected badly by the pandemic — widened its net loss to $54.2 million for the quarter.

Despite its dire financial state, AirAsia X says it is doing its best to “mitigate the current situation”.

“The company wishes to assure stakeholders that all efforts are being implemented to mitigate the current situation and to brace the new normalcy.

“The company is in active engagement with its business partners to reschedule payments and reduce costs as well as to renegotiate terms of contracts to ensure that cash is preserved for when scheduled operations resume,” it adds.