AirAsia (AK, Kuala Lumpur International) has converted 36 orders for A321-200NX to the A321-200NX(LR) variant as it prepares its narrowbody fleet for a planned merger with the long-haul unit AirAsia X (D7, Kuala Lumpur International), the CEO of parent holding Capital A Tony Fernandes told reporters during a briefing.

"It's traditionally never been done by low-cost carriers, but we believe now that with the aircraft that Airbus has given us, the A321-200NX, A321-200NX(LR), A330-900, and soon to come the A321-200NY(XLR), we can build the first global network carrier and connect the world with low fares through our hubs in Kuala Lumpur International, Bangkok Don Mueang, and Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta," he declared.

The A321-200NX(LR)s are scheduled to start delivering in 2025. AirAsia currently has a firm order for 362 A321-200NX powered by CFM International LEAP-1A engines, and the bulk of the commitment will remain in the non-(LR) variant for now. While AirAsia has not taken any new aircraft since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, as it was heavily affected by restrictions on travel across Southeast Asia, it is now picking up the pace.

The ch-aviation fleets history module shows the last new aircraft to deliver to the group were three A321-200NX to AirAsia and Thai AirAsia (FD, Bangkok Don Mueang) inducted on December 31, 2019. Since then, the group has added a limited number of second-hand aircraft, but Fernandes expects deliveries direct from Airbus to resume in June 2024. A total of 24 new aircraft are expected by the end of this year.

In terms of the A320neo Family, the Malaysian carrier also operates twenty-nine A320-200Ns and two A321-200NX, while Thai AirAsia operates eleven A320neo and two A321neo. Both airlines, as well as Philippines AirAsia (Z2, Manila Ninoy Aquino International) and Indonesia AirAsia (QZ, Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta), also operate A320-200s.

The aircraft will complement the twenty A321-200NY(XLR)s on order by AirAsiaX. The long-haul unit currently operates eighteen A330-300s and has fifteen -900s on order.

Fernandes emphasised that the LRs would increase the carrier's flexibility in serving destinations in North Asia, Australia, and Central Asia. On an unrelated point, he pledged to launch services to Kenya - the group's first African destination - by the end of 2024. Going forward, the carrier plans to use the A330neo for a much broader intercontinental expansion, including through a host of fifth-freedom routes. Currently, the group's only intercontinental routes are to Australia.

"The network expansion is to cities like London, Paris, Amsterdam Schiphol, Bratislava, Barcelona El Prat, Copenhagen Kastrup, Cairo International, Nairobi Jomo Kenyatta, and Cape Town International. East Coast in North America - New York, Miami International, Toronto Pearson - will be via Europe, and West Coast - San Francisco, Los Angeles International, Vancouver International - via Japan," he said.

Fernandes added that the proposed sale of AirAsia and AirAsia Aviation Group, the investment vehicle for AirAsia-branded carriers outside Malaysia, to AirAsia X was progressing.

"It's moving. It's off the airbridge. It's moving towards the runway," he said. "The stages would be approval from the stock exchange, sale and purchase agreement signed, shareholders' approval, court and raising capital. To do this plan, we also need to raise capital".