AirAsia to hold press conference on developing long-haul ops

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 19): AirAsia Group Bhd said it would hold a media event on Thursday in Kuala Lumpur for a major announcement related to developing long-haul operations.

The briefing, timed to start at 5:30 pm local time (0930 GMT), follows speculation that the company will order new planes.

The announcement comes two days after Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said AirAsia had not yet taken a decision on which aircraft manufacturer to pick.

AirAsia has been a steadfast Airbus narrow-body and wide-body customer, but recently the company has talked to Boeing Co about buying the rival 787 jet as an alternative, a person familiar with the discussions told Reuters in April.

Long-haul arm AirAsia X has a firm order for 66 of the fuel-efficient A330neo widebody jets to replace its older first-generation A330s but it has been pushing back the delivery dates. It is Airbus' biggest customer for the A330neo.

The airline also has a firm order for 10 A350s placed in 2009, but Fernandes in April said that jet was "too expensive" and would not be purchased.

AirAsia was discussing the possible purchase of another 100 Airbus A321neo jets as Fernandes and Airbus went down to the wire in parallel negotiations for an expanded order for larger A330neo jets, industry sources said on Sunday.