AirAsia X Malaysia slows fleet expansion in 2019 as first A330-900neo delivery delayed until 2Q2020

AirAsia X Malaysia will take a hiatus from fleet expansion this year and has postponed delivery of its first A330-900neo from 4Q2019 to 2Q2020. However, its Thailand based affiliate is accelerating expansion by adding five aircraft, including two leased A330-900neos which are slated to be delivered in 2Q2019.


Highlights:

  • AirAsia X Malaysia has postponed delivery of its first A330-900neo from Oct-2019 to 2Q2020;
  • AirAsia X announced in Jul-2018 an increase in its A330-900neo order from 66 to 100 aircraft but now plans to acquire around 75 aircraft;
  • Thai AirAsia X plans to lease two A330-900neos from 2Q2019, which are being sourced from Avalon and are not part of the group’s order.

The AirAsia X Group currently has a fleet of 36 A330-300ceos, which makes it the world’s largest widebody low cost airline group. It also has the largest widebody order book among all LCC groups. AirAsia X is planning rapid expansion over the next several years, including new long-haul flights to Europe and the continental US. Its expansion could significantly impact full service network airlines and the corporate market as AirAsia X offers an affordable lie flat seat in business.

CHART – The AirAsia X Group has 110 aircraft on order when including 34 unconfirmed ordersSource: CAPA – Centre for Aviation Fleet Database

AirAsia X and Airbus announced at the Jul-2018 Farnborough Air Show an order for 34 additional A330-900neos, increasing the group’s total commitment to 100 A330-900neos and “reaffirming AirAsia X’s position as the largest airline customer for the A330neo”. At the time the group stated the first aircraft would be delivered in Oct-2019.

SEE RELATED CAPA REPORT: Asia LCC widebody fleet: AirAsia X will triple in size in 10 years

Eight months later, AirAsia X has still not confirmed the 34 additional aircraft. Although Airbus initially announced the deal as an order rather than a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it still only lists 66 A330-900neo orders for AirAsia X.

AirAsia X Malaysia CEO Benyamin Ismail told CAPA TV late last month that “we are in the midst of finalising the final number” and the A330-900neo order will likely end up being “around 75” aircraft. He added a potential narrowbody order for A321neo or A321neoLRs, which impacts the number of A330-900neos required, is still under study.

SEE RELATED CAPA REPORT: Low cost long haul narrowbody aircraft: Asian gamechanger?

SEE RELATED THE BLUE SWAN DAILY REPORT: Could the A321neo and A321neoLR enable AirAsia to resume Australia expansion?

Meanwhile, AirAsia X Malaysia has pushed back delivery of its first A330-900neo from Oct-2019 to 2Q2020. Mr Ismail explained that “we decided to hold off for a bit” and “I think coming to second quarter next year is something more reasonable for us to start planning what we have ahead of us”.

As CAPA highlighted in a Jan-2019 report, AirAsia X has particularly been concerned about the Rolls-Royce Trent 7000, the only engine option available on the A330-900neo. Mr Ismail said AirAsia X is now more comfortable with the engine following meetings with Rolls-Royce but “we still have scepticism on Rolls-Royce … We want to see how the engine works, how everything does.”

Mr Ismail added that Thai AriAsia X’s (TAAX) decision to lease two A330-900neos from 2Q2019 will also give AirAsia X Malaysia information that will help it prepare for deliveries from 2Q2020.

The newly revised AirAsia X Group fleet plan for 2019 includes five additional aircraft for TAAX (two A330-900neos and three A330-300ceos) for a total of 15 aircraft. TAAX added four aircraft in 2019 – all second hand A330-300s which were subsequently retrofitted to 365-seat all economy configuration. Its original 11 A330-300s are in 377-seat two class configuration and all five aircraft being added in 2019 will also be in this 377-seat two class configuration (365 economy and 12 business class).

AirAsia X Malaysia also added two second hand A330-300ceos in 2018 which have been retrofitted to 365 seat all economy configuration. It also has 22 A330-300ceos which were delivered new in its normal two class 377-seat configuration.

SEE RELATED THE BLUE SWAN DAILY REPORT: AirAsia X product becomes inconsistent as second hand A330-300ceos are added

The newly revised fleet plan for AirAsia X Malaysia does not include for now any additional aircraft for 2019. However, Mr Ismail said the airline is considering taking back one A330-300ceo from its Indonesian affiliate in 3Q2019. If this aircraft is added, AirAsia X Malaysia’s fleet will reach 25 aircraft at the end of 2019 while Indonesia AirAsia X’s fleet will decline to only one aircraft. Indonesia AirAsia X suspended scheduled services in early 2019 and is currently only operating charters.

Here’s more from Mr Ismail in an extract from a longer CAPA TV interviewed filmed on the sidelines of the CAPA Global LCC Summit in Singapore in Feb-2019.