What Happened To AirAsia’s Boeing 737s?

Nowadays, AirAsia is known as a bustling low-cost airline group operating an all-Airbus fleet. But did you the airline once flew the Boeing 737? In fact, it flew dozens of them during its early years. So what happened to these 737s? Let’s find out.

AirAsia Boeing 737-300
AirAsia operated the smaller Boeing 737-300 for over a decade before switching to the A320 family. Photo: M Radzi Desa via Wikimedia Commons

All fleet data in this article is courtesy of Planespotters.net.


AirAsia operated a total of 36 Boeing 737-300, also known as the ‘classic’ generation of the popular narrowbody. The carrier took delivery of its first 737 in November 1996, a few weeks before kicking off operations. Financial troubles meant the airline only took one more aircraft, in 1997, until 2001.

However, after being acquired by current CEO Tony Fernandes, AirAsia rebranded itself as the low-cost airline we know today. This saw a huge expansion in the 737 fleet and 10 new aircraft in 2003 alone, with more joining in subsequent years. In total, AirAsia operated 36 737-300s between 1996 and 2010.

AirAsia Indonesia Boeing 737-300
AirAsia’s subsidiaries in Thailand and Indonesia also operated the 737 alongside the mainline carrier. Photo: M Radzi Desa via Wikimedia Commons

However, in 2006, AirAsia opted to switch to an all-Airbus A320 operations. It quickly began ordering new planes and already had a 100 on firm order. As more A320s made their way to the fleet, the future of the rapidly aging 737-300s looked challenging. Here’s what happened.

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AirAsia’s first 737-300, registration 9M-AAB, was retired in June 2003. This aircraft went on to fly for Garuda Indonesia, Shenzhen Airlines, and is currently at Nauru Airlines. Considering this aircraft is under 25 years old, it likely has a few more years before its retirement.

While the pace of retirements was slow as first, in 2008, AirAsia decided to increase the rate. While only four aircraft exited from 2004-2007 (including temporary leases), a whopping 11 planes were retired in 2008 alone. This substantially reduced the 737-300 fleet, which was largely offset by newer A320s.

AirAsia Boeing 737-300
AirAsia retired nearly half of its fleet in 2008 alone, and did not hold onto the remaining aircraft for much longer. Photo: Simon_sees via Flickr

The AirAsia Group retired four more jets in 2009, leaving only a handful of the type remaining. Nine more 737-300s (from the airline’s Thailand and Indonesian arms) made their way back to lessors in 2010, with the end of the fleet imminent. The final aircraft, PK-AWQ, was retired in March 2012, formally ending the plane’s near quarter-century history. So, where did these planes go?

Still new

It’s important to remember that some of AirAsia’s retired jets were less than 15 years old, making them popular in the resale market. 12 aircraft, exactly 1/3rd of the fleet, were scrapped right after their retirement or return to lessors. However, the remaining planes did find themselves at some interesting airlines.

Mexican low-cost carrier Viva Aerobus took six 737-300s between 2009 and 2010. Indonesian carriers Citilink and Merpati also took a few of the planes, while other airlines included Jet Time, Air Manila, and Olympic Airlines.

Viva Aerobus Boeing 737-300
AirAsia’s 737s found their way across the globe, including several here at Viva Aerobus. Photo: Alex Lomix via Flickr

As it stands today, AirAsia is firmly an all-Airbus carrier, only flying the A320 and A330 families of aircraft. However, the airline’s long history means it has dabbled in a few more types over the years, including the A340.

Did you ever fly AirAsia’s Boeing 737-300s? Let us know in the comments!