AirAsia Sees Record Ticket Sales As Malaysia Opens Up

On Wednesday, Tony Fernandes, AirAsia’s CEO, said that he believes his airline will come back stronger than before in 2021. People want to travel, he said, and they feel that it is safe to do so, demonstrated by the airline’s record sales in Malaysia as the country came out of its partial lockdown earlier this week.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes said Wednesday that his airline had seen record ticket sales in Malaysia as the country came back out of a partial lockdown. Photo: Getty Images

Record sales cause for optimism

Tony Fernandes, the Malaysian businessman who took over AirAsia in 2001 after paying one ringgit, believes that air travel demand is fundamentally there and the airline will come back stronger than ever in 2021. The first signs that his optimism could be warranted came a few days ago as Malaysia lifted its reinstated partial restrictions. As a result, the airline’s ticket sales soared.

The AirAsia CEO believes this is an indication that people want to fly and feel confident that it is safe to do so. In an interview with CAPA’s Executive Chairman Peter Harbison on Wednesday, he also stated that countries are desperate to open up and that Singapore will most likely be the first to do so sometime in March.

This is due to the relatively easy logistics in vaccination, compared to other Asian countries with larger populations. Mr Fernandes projects we will see a broader return to normalcy come July or August and states that vaccine requirements for travelers will be up to governments, not airlines.

AirAsia Founder CEO Tony Fernandes Getty
AirAsia’s CEO is confident the airline will bounce back and return even stronger in 2021. Photo: Getty Images

Just “another chapter”

Mr Fernandes also said that COVID was “just another chapter on an incredible ride,” and that it had allowed his company to step back and restructure, returning to AirAsia’s original business model. He expressed optimism for the future and said people would adapt and get used to new health protocols while traveling.

Of course, this raises the question of what will happen with AirAsia’s large Airbus orderbook. The budget carrier has no less than 349 A321neos and 13 A320neos on order that are yet to be delivered. These include 30 of the A321XLR, which would have gone to embattled long-haul branch AirAsiaX.

AirAsia X A330
Thirty new XLR single-aisle planes were meant for AirAsia X. Photo: Getty Images

AirAsia could return planes in the short-term, orderbook still stands

As one of the last airlines concluding negotiations with Airbus on the deferral of deliveries due to the COVID-19 crisis, AirAsia’s CEO is still confident the carrier could “absolutely” take all of those planes, just not right now. The airline could potentially even give some back.

“In the short term, we will have to not take planes and we may have to return planes in the short term as we rebuild our cash balances and rebuild our balance sheet,” Mr Fernandes said in the interview.

What do you think of Mr Fernades’ statement that AirAsia would still take all of the jets it has on order?