AirAsia Group advisor Tony Fernandes is not ruling out Comac aircraft from future fleet planning, becoming the latest in a growing number of airline leaders to comment on the Chinese airframer. 

Speaking at a media event in Kuala Lumpur on 26 April, Fernandes, who is also chief executive of Malaysia-based Capital A, said the airline group could look at “other aircraft manufacturers” to boost its fleet in the long term, amid a long wait for new narrowbody delivery slots at Airbus. 


Source: Alfred Chua/FlightGlobal

Chief executive of Capital A and advisor to AirAsia Group Tony Fernandes did not rule out looking beyond current supplier Airbus

Fernandes says AirAsia “would be foolish not to look at the [Comac] programmes” as the airline group grows its fleet in the long term. He did not specify which of Comac’s two in-production aircraft – the C919 narrowbody or ARJ21 regional jet – he was referring to. 

“I can confirm it is something worth looking at…[and is something] I will bring back to the [AirAsia and Capital A] boards to discuss.” 

Still, he stresses that the group remains a key Airbus customer. AirAsia units across Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines operate hundreds of A320-family aircraft, while medium-haul unit AirAsia X operates A330 widebodies. They also have close to 400 Airbus aircraft on order, with deliveries set to resume this year.  

Fernandes says AirAsia “will seriously consider” an offer from “another manufacturer”, with Airbus “unable to build planes quick enough for us”.   

He had previously visited Comac’s facilities in Shanghai, sharing on his LinkedIn page that he was “blown away” by what he saw.  ”I have no doubt that we now have a third choice [of airframer]. What impressed me most [was] Comac’s desire to be a long-term partner and [their] genuine friendship,” he wrote.

Fernandes latest comments come as airlines – especially in Asia – begin to warm to Comac’s C919, amid ongoing production delays and quality control issues affecting Airbus and Boeing, respectively. 

Malaysia Airlines, for example, in March said it does not rule out the C919 for future narrowbody orders, while Cathay Pacific chief Ronald Lam spoke of a future narrowbody market that will include Comac aircraft. 

The C919 made its international debut at the 2024 Singapore air show in February and embarked on a showcase tour around Southeast Asia – including Malaysia – in the subsequent months. 

The type, which Bejing hopes will break the Airbus-Boeing duopoly in the narrowbody market, entered commercial service with launch customer China Eastern Airlines in late-May 2023. So far, the programme has only attracted orders from Chinese operators.