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AirAsia prepares for budget long-haul flights

PARIS—Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia launched the first of 66 new long-haul aircraft during the annual Paris Air Show on Monday, as it began to expand in Australia and could revive its Europe service to keep with the burgeoning market for budget long-haul flights.

The new Airbus A330-900 aircraft, showcased during the 2019 Paris International Air Show, is expected to take off on June 25 on the Bangkok-Brisbane (Australia) route via AirAsia’s long-haul affiliate, Thailand X.

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AirAsia declined to provide a definite timetable for the other 65 to take flight, saying it depended on Airbus. It also remained cagey about the other planned routes. But AirAsia X Group CEO Nadda Buranasiri said they were eyeing more destinations to and from Bangkok and other parts of China.

With this purchase, AirAsia would become the first airline in Asia-Pacific to operate the A330-900: a wide-body 377-seater aircraft that could fly 12,000 miles over a 10 and a half-hour power range, said AirAsia X chair Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.

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The planes boasted of comfort, with more legroom, larger cabin bag storage spaces and power sockets in every seat, she added.

“Our destination reach is not limited because of the capabilities of the plane,” she said. “We can strategize now about where we want to go beyond what we have right now.”

AirAsia was named the world’s best low-cost airline during this year’s Skytrax World Airlines Awards, the aviation industry’s Oscars, marking its record-breaking 11th win in a row.

The Malaysian airline has always wanted to expand its footprint, but it has only gone so far as Hawaii in the United States.

It earlier tried to operate in Europe via London, but the AirAsia chief said, “the fleet that we used to go to London, that was not the right plane. The cost factor killed us.”

“Maybe now [seems like] (an) opportunity for us to start again in London, but I cannot say that yet,” she said. “So perhaps this plane (A330-900) could give us an advantage. We have to look it up very carefully.”

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TAGS: 2019 Paris International Air Show, AirAsia, Airbus A330-900 aircraft, long-haul aircraft, Paris air show
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