Malaysia's AirAsia says still with Airbus, no plans to buy Boeing planes

FILE PHOTO: An AirAsia X Airbus A340 passenger jet arrives on its inaugural flight from Kuala Lumpur to Paris Orly Airport February 14, 2011. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian budget airline AirAsia Bhd AIRA.KL is sticking with Airbus AIR.PA and has no plans currently to purchase Boeing BA.N aircraft, Group CEO Tony Fernandes said at a press briefing late on Thursday.

“Boeing is keen to have us as a customer...but right now we are still very much an Airbus customer,” he told reporters.

To a question if he had plans to buy Boeing planes, Fernandes said “not at the moment”.

Last month, Reuters reported that sources said AirAsia -Airbus’ largest Asian customer - was set to confirm an order of wide-body jets from the European planemaker after Boeing tried to win the airline over and extend a lead in the lucrative long-haul market.

On Thursday, the airline also announced the sale of its aircraft leasing operations to firms managed by BBAM Ltd, one of the world’s largest aircraft portfolio managers, in a staggered deal that will see the budget carrier transfer ownership of up to 182 Airbus jets.

The deal, valued at $1.2 billion in the first phase, will help the airline pare down debt and return money to shareholders, as well as give it firepower to grow its business.

Reporting by Liz Lee; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman