AirAsia X product becomes inconsistent as second hand A330-300ceos are added

All of the A330-300s that AirAsia X is adding this year are in a new lower density configuration, resulting in unideal product inconsistencies.


Highlights

  • AirAsia X is currently operating one A330-300 in Thailand with only 262 economy class seats in a typical full service eight abreast configuration along with 38 angled lie-flat premium seats;
  • The rest of AirAsia X’s fleet consists of 365 economy seats in a tighter nine abreast seat configuration along with 12 angled lie-flat premium seats;
  • AirAsia X plans to later retrofit the 300-seat aircraft into a 365-seat all economy aircraft but this will still result in a roomier than normal economy product;
  • AirAsia X plans to add five more second hand A330-300s this year which will also be in a 365-seat all economy configuration, offering a roomier than normal product.

The long haul low cost airline group has always taken delivery of A330-300s in two class 377-seat configuration with 12 premium and 365 economy seats. The premium seats are angled lie flat in a 2x2x2 configuration with a 59in pitch, while the economy seats are in a tight 3x3x3 configuration with a 31in pitch.

However, AirAsia X recently put into service an A330-300 with only 262 economy seats in a typical full service 2x4x2 configuration with a pitch of at least 32in. This aircraft also has a much larger premium cabin with 38 angled lie-flat seats in a 2x2x2 configuration.

The newly added aircraft was previously operated by China Eastern and is being leased from BOC Aviation. AirAsia X decided initially not to reconfigure this aircraft as it had an urgent need for an extra aircraft in Thailand.

The additional A330-300, registered HS-XTG, is currently only being operated on the Bangkok Don Mueang-Tokyo Narita. Thai AirAsia X now operates three daily flights on this route, having added the third frequency at broadly the same time as the aircraft was delivered. However, AirAsia X’s other two Bangkok-Tokyo flights have the normal AirAsia X product.

AirAsia X is not charging more for economy seats for the two flights with the much roomier product, XJ-600 from Bangkok Don Mueang (scheduled departure time of 1155pm) and XJ-601 from Tokyo Narita (scheduled departing time 915am). Economy passengers on this flight will benefit from a wider economy seat and more legroom.

The specs on the business class seat are fairly similar – both are angled lie-flat with nearly identical width and pitch. However, some premium passengers may be disappointed as the reviews on the China Eastern A330-300 business class seat are generally not as good as the reviews on the normal AirAsia X premium seat.

AirAsia X’s normal A330 configuration (Type A) and the configuration on HS-XTG (Type I)

Source: airasia.com

AirAsia X plans to remove the China Eastern seats on HS-XTG later this year, which will improve product consistency somewhat. However, the legroom offered in economy will continue to be superior to the rest of its fleet, resulting in some product inconsistencies.

As CAPA reported in a Nov-2017 analysis, AirAsia X has selected a 365-seat all-economy configuration for all the A330-300s being added this year. AirAsia X is unable to go with the normal 377-seat configuration because the aircraft being added do not have the standard size exit doors.

“AirAsia X is unable to install more than 365 seats in any of the additional A330-300ceos as all the aircraft available on the market have smaller exit doors and are certified for a maximum 365 passengers based on evacuation requirements”, CAPA stated at the time. “The A330-300s which AirAsia X now operates have larger doors. However, there are no available aircraft of this type on the market, and to retrofit the doors to raise the maximum seat capacity from 365 to 440 seats is very costly.”

AirAsia X is adding six A330-300s this year, all of which are secondhand leased aircraft that have the normal size exit doors. Three of these aircraft have been allocated to Malaysia and three to Thailand. Only the one aircraft to Thailand has so far been delivered (and not yet retrofitted), while the other five aircraft are expected to be retrofitted to 365-seat all-economy configuration before entering service.

AirAsia X is planning to add a few more secondhand A330-300ceos in 2019 before taking its first A330-900neo. On 19-Jul-2018 AirAsia X increased its A330-900neo order from 66 to 100 aircraft starting in late 2019 or early 2020. CAPA previously reported that AirAsia X had selected a 389-seat two-class configuration for its future A330-900neos.

AirAsia X will continue to operate 30 A330-300ceos in the normal 377-seat two class configuration. This includes 22 A330-300s based at the group’s original airline subsidiary in Malaysia, six aircraft at the Thai affiliate and two aircraft at the Indonesian affiliate.

AirAsia X initially explained to CAPA that it decided to go with an-all economy configuration on the additional because it has several routes where there is limited or no premium demand. However, a low density all-economy aircraft is hardly ideal. Other all economy A330 operators have 436 seats (Cebu Pacific) or 440 seats (Lion Air). Therefore, AirAsia X’s all economy A330s will be about 20% less efficient in terms of unit cost than competitors.

AirAsia X will also have to deal with product inconsistencies because the six aircraft will have significantly more legroom than the rest of its fleet because it plans to use its normal nine abreast economy seat. This is hardly an ideal situation as managing customer service and communications becomes more difficult.