Air Asia founder and CEO Tony Fernandes said in Toulouse today (Thursday) that he would reconnect Australia to Europe with long haul flights by his Air Asia X brand in 2015 as an early user of the yet to fly Airbus A350-900.
Fernandes was at the Airbus multiplex to take delivery of his 100th A320, and hinted that before the day was over he might have lifted his total orders for the jet from its present tallyof 375.
Earlier this year Air Asia X discontinued its A340 flights to Paris and London from Kuala Lumpur, but expanded its A330-300 flights within SE Asia, including opening a new service between Sydney and the Malaysia capital in April.
The A350s will fit economy passengers into a cabin with 10 across seating, one more per row than standard A350s, just as his A330s fit in nine across seating where the standard is eight across. A premium cabin with sleepers would undercut whatever price for a similar product was being asked by legacy carriers.
Asked about the end of discussions with Qantas for a proposed premium single aisle carrier based in Malaysia involving the participation of Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines, Fernandes said he had very good relations with Qantas CEO Alan Joyce but “I will no longer have a 20% stake in Malaysia Airlines.”
Fernandes was upbeat about his prolonged pursuit of permissions to set up a new Singapore hub and division to compete directly with Jetstar Asia, Tiger Airways and Scoot.
“I would love to set up a hub in Singapore but the government there won’t allow it,” he said.
“However it took me seven years to get Singapore-Kuala Lumpur flights allowed, and I will keep pressing for the Singapore hub until I get it.”
Fernandes said Air Asia was already the second largest airline by numbers of flights in Singapore after Singapore Airlines, which he said in apparent jest that he intended to buy one day, and emphasised was larger than Jetstar, Tiger and SilkAir.
Fernandes said Air Asia would remain profitable until oil reached $US 150 per barrel.
He said he believed the broad spectrum approach to service standards by traditional carriers like Singapore Airlines was failing and that the market will polarise around the opposites of a premium carriers and low cost carriers with very little inbetween.