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Award-winning Low-cost airline AirAsia plots expansion

Riding on the momentum of its record-breaking 11th win as the world’s best low-cost airline, Malaysian airline AirAsia said it was now focused on its expansion options with larger aircraft and possibly new routes.

The airline won big during this year’s Skytrax International Awards in Paris, France—considered the aviation industry’s Oscars—which it expected would help increase demand across its networks.

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It also bagged the title of world’s best low-cost airline premium cabin award for its long-haul affiliate AirAsia X.

The awards were based on a global quality audit of 21.6 million passengers who reviewed over 300 airlines from September 2018 to May 2019.

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With this win, the carrier, which also has affiliates in the Philippines and other parts of Southeast Asia, has held the title of best low-cost airline the longest.

“The fact that these awards are based on direct feedback is gratifying and wonderful recognition for the Allstars who put so much effort and commitment into service excellence,” said AirAsia Group Berhad Executive chair Datuk Karamudin Meranun.

This also followed the company’s commitment to put 66 new Airbus A330-900s in the air to service new, longer-haul flights.

The first aircraft was unveiled during the Paris International Air Show in Le Bourget, and will fly the Bangkok-Brisbane route.

“Combined with our renowned in-flight service as a long-haul, low-cost carrier, AirAsia X will strive to continue to offer excellent value for money to our guests,” said AirAsia X Berhad chair Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.

Shortly after it won the award, the airline also said it had revised 253 orders for Airbus 320neos to the larger A321neo model.

The change, Airbus said, would “enable AirAsia to offer higher capacity in response to ongoing strong demand across its network. AirAsia becomes the world’s largest customer for the A321neo.”

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AirAsia has 230 A320 Family aircraft in service, which together deliver at least 15 percent fuel savings at delivery and 20 percent by 2020.

In total, AirAsia placed orders for 592 aircraft from the A320 family currently being used by its hubs in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, India and Japan.

Of this, 353 are A321neos, though the financial aspects of the deal were not disclosed.

Still, this makes AirAsia the world’s largest customer for the model, boosting Airbus’ sales as it competed with rival plane maker Boeing for orders at the air show.

In a statement, AirAsia Berhad executive chair Datuk Kamarudin Meranun said, “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 A321neo boasts of a 7,400-kilometer range with 244 seats—or at least 20 seats more than AirAsia’s current capacity. It will be powered by 200-LEAP-1A engines manufactured by CFM International.

AirAsia and CFM also recently inked a $23.1-billion deal for the engines as well as the expansion of its 20-year rate-per-flight-hour agreement.

This guarantees maintenance costs for AirAsia’s fleet of 808 engines on a dollar-per-engine flight hour basis.

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