With over 300 Airbus A321neos on order, AirAsia group is set to become the largest operator of the type in the world once the deliveries are completed. While still far from getting there, earlier this week, AirAsia took delivery of its first airframe of the type.
The new aircraft entered into service today, November 23, 2019, just two days after delivery.
AirAsia Receives Its First Airbus A321neo
AirAsia, an all-Airbus fleet operator, ordered the Airbus A321neo for the first time at the 2016 Farnborough Air Show. At that time, it signed a firm order for 100 airframes.
Earlier this year, though, at the 2019 Paris Air Show, the airline decided to increase that commitment. Rather than placing a brand new order, however, it converted the vast majority of its outstanding A320neo orders – 253 airframes – to the larger A321neo.
With that, the group’s total number of A321neos on order grew to 353. The type is set to become the backbone of its fleet and replace its existing A320s and A320neos. As Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, AirAsia Group Executive Chairman, said when the conversion was announced:
With its numerous efficiency benefits and the operational flexibility this aircraft brings, the A321neo will be the new backbone of our operations as we continue to expand to meet growing air travel demand across Asia.
The first airframe of the type for AirAsia, 9M-VAA, left Hamburg on November 20, 2019, from where it flew to Ashgabat in Turkmenistan. After a brief technical stop, it took off bound for Kuala Lumpur where it arrived on the afternoon of November 21, 2019.
Rather than wearing the standard red AirAsia livery, it has been painted in a special “3, 2, 1, take off” livery designed to celebrate entry of the new type into the airline’s fleet.
When welcoming the aircraft at its home airport, Tony Fernandes, Air Asia Group CEO, said:
Last year AirAsia flew over 90 million guests and now, with significantly improved operational efficiencies and 50 more seats per aircraft, AirAsia can look forward to flying even more people for less. As our cost is reduced we can pass on any savings to our guests in the form of even lower airfares.
Initially, the type is expected to operate between Kuala Lumpur and Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, Singapore, Bangkok and Shenzhen. Its first commercial flight took place on November 23, 2019, from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching as AirAsia flight 5232.
Besides the A321neo, AirAsia group airlines operate a fleet of Airbus A320s and A320neos.
Its medium- and long-haul sister airline group AirAsia X operates a fleet of mainly A330-300s and a single A330-900. It has further 77 A330-900s as well as 30 A321XLRs on order.
With AirAsia eventually planning to replace its A320s (both ceo and neo) with the larger A321neo, putting the first of the larger type into service is an important milestone for the airline. Likewise, it’s an important milestone for Airbus as it’s the first step towards AirAsia becoming the largest operator of the type.
Combined with its sister airline having over a hundred A330neos and A321XLRs on order, AirAsia and AirAsia X continue to be one of the European manufacturer’s most important customers.