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AirAsia plans to become the world’s first truly global low-cost carrier

AirAsia intends to become the first global budget network carrier, the CEO of its parent company has announced.

AirAsia intends to become the first global budget network carrier, the CEO of its parent company has announced.

Malaysian-based AirAsia currently operates throughout the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions, including multiple ports in Australia, through several subsidiary airlines. 

However, the carrier plans to grow its network to Europe, North America and Africa when its new spec aircraft are delivered in the coming years, operating a hub and spoke model with several new virtual hubs.

Tony Fernandes, CEO of Capital A, the umbrella company for AirAsia’s airlines, revealed the plans as Airbus Commercial Aircraft CEO Christian Scherer visited RedQ, AirAsia’s corporate headquarters, where hundreds of AirAsia staff welcomed the Airbus leader. 

Airline AirAsia
CEO Tony Fernandes

“We look forward to expanding our narrow-body fleet with the introduction of the A321XLR and are actively exploring opportunities with the A321LR, which will gradually replace our workhorse A320 predecessor over the coming years from our key hubs including Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila and Cambodia,” he stated. 

“These new specification aircraft including the A321neo, will enable greater flexibility on existing short to medium-haul routes and network expansion to places we have never flown before, including to exciting secondary in markets such as North Asia, Australia and Central Asia from Southeast Asia.” 

An A330 jet.
An A330 jet.

“With our wide-body Airbus A330 fleet including the introduction of A330neo, we are also looking to expand our medium to long-haul network to the European continent, to cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Bratislava, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Africa (Cairo, Nairobi, Cape Town), East Coast North America (New York, Miami, Toronto) via Europe and West Coast North America (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vancouver) via Japan.”

While some budget airlines operate long-haul services, none operate what would be considered a global network of flights. This would make AirAsia’s offering unique, should it materialise.

1,000+ planes on order

Parked AirAsia planes in Kuala Lumpur.
An airline with big ambitions.

Meanwhile, Fernandes lauded AirAsia’s partnership with the French plane maker, which now spans over 20 years. 

“Their versatile aircraft provide the best fit for our network expansion plans, with the continuous developments and improvements to the aircraft, improved fuel efficiency, increase in payload and in range capabilities, all of which offer unrivalled economics for our commitment to consistently deliver best value, high-quality service,” he remarked. 

And AirAsia’s plane order is substantial.

“Our commitment to Airbus never faltered, even through the pandemic. As one of their biggest customers, we have a total orderbook of 647 aircraft consisting of 592 A320 Family and 35 A330 Family aircraft with another 362 A321neo, 20 A321XLR and 15 A330neo to be delivered over the next decade as we set our sights on growing bigger than ever in the future,” Fernandes said. 

That’s a long way from the AirAsia’s launch fleet of just two aircraft in 2001.

AirAsia won the gong for World’s Best Low-Cost Airline at the 2023 World Airline Awards.