AirAsia bosses chose the second day of the 2019 Paris Air Show to announce that they are converting an order for 253 A320-200neos to the larger A321-200neo.
Malaysia’s largest low cost carrier, AirAsia Berhad, today decided to ramp up the type it has on order in response, a spokesperson said, to “ongoing strong demand across its network.” One of Asia’s largest budget airlines, AirAsia intends to convert 253 A320neo on order to A321neos. The move will make the AirAsia Group the world’s largest customer of the type.
According to ch-aviation AirAsia’s Executive Chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun said in a statement, “We have spent a number of years reviewing what the future of our operations will look like and today, we’re proud to become the world’s largest customer for the A321neo.”
The change will be applied to almost 90% of the Group’s current order of A320neos. Previously, the order was for 304 A320neos of which 37 had been delivered.
The Group says it expects deliveries of the A321neo in the latter part of this year. The first four aircraft of the new type will be brought into play with AirAsia and jointly-owned Thai AirAsia.
Following its up-sizing (and the purchase of its first A321neo at the start of 2019), AirAsia will become the world’s largest customer of Airbus’ New Engine Option jetliner.
The Malaysian LCC intends to use the A321neo on its high-frequency routes. It is believed the alteration will result in the augmentation of overall seat capacity by almost a third without adding flights to an already packed manifest, according to CAPA.
AirAsia currently has 230 A320 aircraft in service. The Group’s primary hub is at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. The Group’s subsidiaries (of which there are eight) have hubs in various parts of the world including India, the Philippines and Japan.
Why the change?
The A321neo is a member of Airbus’s best-selling A320 family, the first of which was launched in 1984. In 2006 the type underwent extensive remodeling. Changes of the original design included measures intended to make the A320 more economically viable.
Sharklets, aerodynamic refinements and weight reduction made the plane 15% more fuel-efficient. Airbus hopes to capitalize on this with a further 5% rise in operating efficiency by 2020.
The family has since been further enhanced under the “neo” programme of changes.
The A321neo’s extra capacity is due to Airbus’s optimizing its use of the cabin space. The “cabin-flex” option allows the manufacturer the ability to produce a narrow-body jet with a capacity of 244 seats compared with the A320neo’s 150 to 180.
As reported by ch-aviation AirAsia’s Chairman Meranun said,
“We have spent a number of years reviewing what the future of our operations will look like and today, we’re proud to become the world’s largest customer for the A321neo.
“With its numerous efficiency benefits and the operational flexibility this aircraft brings, the A321neo will be the new backbone of our operations as we continue to expand to meet growing air travel demand across Asia.”
We previously reported that AirAsia’s sister company AirAsia X last year ordered 34 A330neo wide bodies; an order it has yet to execute. Some industry insiders believe it may be the next type to be replaced with Airbus’s expansive narrow body neo.