AirAsia cuts Airbus A330neo order plans, adds A321XLR

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KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 30): Malaysia's flagship budget airline AirAsia Group Bhd slashed its plans for Airbus SE A330neo orders by nearly two-thirds to 12, but said it would order 30 of the new long-range A321XLR narrowbodies.

Its long-haul arm AirAsia X Bhd had unveiled 34 orders for A330neo widebodies at the Farnborough Airshow in 2018. Airbus had said these were firm orders but the deal was thrown into doubt as AirAsia sought to rejig its fleet needs.

The downsized firm order for A330neos follows more than a year of tough negotiations.

In July 2018, AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes tweeted that conditions for a fresh order included price, performance, engines and advance payments, before adding "or else" in a remark designed to leave the door open to an alternative deal with Boeing Co.

The new contract with Airbus increases the number of A330neos on order by AirAsia to 78, making it the largest global customer for the type.

None of the planes from its prior firm order for 66 A330neos have yet been delivered to the airline, although Thai AirAsia X took a leased A330neo this month.

AirAsia did not announce planned delivery dates for the fresh batch of 12 A330neos or the A321XLRs, but Fernandes said in a statement that the types were "perfect partners" for AirAsia X's long-haul low-cost operations.

Industry sources have said AirAsia was in talks to become a launch customer for the A321XLR at the Paris Airshow in June but an agreement did not materialise in time for the showcase event.

AirAsia X last week reported its biggest quarterly loss since 2015 and said it expected continued pressure on the Malaysian currency and for the operational environment to remain challenging against the global economic backdrop.