The CEO of Capital A, the entity behind AirAsia (AK, Kuala Lumpur International) and other AirAsia brands, has indicated the company is working on a fresh aircraft order, most likely with Airbus, and that the additional aircraft will facilitate a major network expansion.

Speaking to Channel News Asia (CNA) at the Milken Institute Asia Summit in Singapore on September 14, CEO Tony Fernandes said he wanted to add more capacity across his airlines and that a new aircraft purchase would assist. "We are in discussions with manufacturers for a widebody order," he said, noting that the dealings were primarily with Airbus but added that Boeing had also made offers.

Fernandes declined to answer a question about the size of the order, saying it would be subject to board approval. However, he said he envisaged building a multi-hub route strategy within the ten-nation ASEAN bloc "as big as Emirates in Dubai and Qatar Airways in Doha [...] In due course, we will announce what kind of order size we are looking at."

The AirAsia Aviation Group of regional airlines, which includes Philippine Airlines, Thai AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia, in addition to the headline Malaysian AOC airline, flies a fleet of Airbus narrowbodies. The latest Airbus delivery data shows some 362 A321neo Family aircraft are on order. The medium and long haul airlines, AirAsia X and Thai AirAsia X, operate A330-type aircraft but are flagged to take delivery of A321-200NY(XLR)s in the future. An order for thirteen A330-900Ns also remains undelivered.

Fernandes also said he is encouraged by the "tremendous capacity growth" his airlines are seeing, including from China. "We are almost back to pre-Covid levels," he said, adding that AirAsia has flown 3.5 million Chinese nationals since that country's borders reopened in March. "We're not seeing any slowdown in Chinese growth, but I suspect they are flying closer by rather than going transcontinental." Fernandes also said AirAsia had returned to all of its pre-pandemic Chinese airports and was eyeing additional destinations next year.

Separately, Fernandes confirmed he would have 180 aircraft across the Group back in service by the end of October and the entire fleet by the end of the year. "It's been a big goal of mine to get all 204 aircraft back in the air, and it's looking good for the fourth quarter."