TOULOUSE May 24 AirAsia is studying a
potential $4 billion deal to buy another 50 Airbus A320
passenger jets, its founder told Reuters on Thursday, extending
the budget carrier's dramatic growth, months after it placed a
record order for 200.
Asia's largest low-cost carrier is ready to swoop on the
current version of Airbus's passenger jets, known as the A320 or
A320ceo, while waiting for a more fuel-efficient version of the
150-seat plane it ordered in record quantities last year.
"In my mind, that is an aircraft order that we would need,
but we haven't made the right analysis yet," Tony Fernandes said
in an interview.
"We have to look at whether we buy or lease. My sense is
that we are short of aircraft, and our team is now evaluating."
Fernandes was speaking after taking delivery of the
Malaysian budget carrier's 100th A320, a narrowbody plane that
competes with the Boeing 737 - two industry best-sellers
that have powered the growth of low-cost airlines.
In total it has ordered 375 Airbus aircraft.
Economic growth, urbanisation and rising disposable incomes
are spurring rapid passenger growth among Asian low-cost
carriers, helping to shield Western planemakers from the malaise
gripping developed economies.
A decision by Airbus and later Boeing to update their
best-selling models with new engines to curb record fuel bills
has produced a wave of orders in the last 12 months.
AirAsia ordered 200 of the revamped A320neo versions worth
$18 billion in mid-2011. A fierce regional rival, Indonesia's
Lion Air, deliberately topped the deal by one jet with a
201-plane purchase from Boeing months later.
AirAsia may, however, need more of the current model to meet
its expansion plans until the newer A320neo reaches the market
from 2015 onwards. Its growth plans include Japan.
"We will obviously be talking to Airbus about more
A320ceos," Fernandes said.
Despite their importance in many fleets, some airlines are
hesitant about buying the existing models, fearing that the
value of their investment will plunge when the new A320neo and
Boeing 737 MAX enter service, depressing resale prices for the
But some in the industry believe resale values may decline
less sharply than widely expected as Airbus and Boeing, bruised
by past production problems, switch over their production lines
gradually. If airlines can cut a good deal on the purchase
price, the older models can still look attractive, a source
close to the talks said.
Although spending most attention on the new models, Airbus
and Boeing need to fill up production slots of the older planes
to ensure a smooth transition, and in some cases are tying in
deals for old models together with sales of new ones.
Airbus has set an internal target of selling 300 of the
A320ceo models this year, while acknowledging that Boeing will
probably win the overall order race for the first time in six
years as it catches up on sales of the newly revamped models.