AirAsia X (D7, Kuala Lumpur Int'l) has announced several cost- and capacity-cutting measures in response to the COVID-19 epidemic, including the deferral of A330-900 deliveries, as well as the return and sale of some A330-300s.

"The management is deliberating to utilise the 236-seater A321-200neo for medium-haul thin routes which would better match demand than the 377-seater A330. The future deliveries of A330neo will be deferred, while we push for early returns of some of the older aircraft back to lessors," Chief Executive Benyamin Ismail said in a press release.

The Malaysian long-haul, low-cost carrier has seventy-eight A330-900s on firm order from Airbus. Its sister carrier Thai AirAsia X (XJ, Bangkok Don Mueang) already operates two such aircraft. The airline did not reveal the revised timeline for deliveries.

The A321neo would come from AirAsia, which already operates two and has a further 349 on firm order. AirAsia X itself has thirty A321neo(XLR)s on order deliveries of which are only due to commence from 2023. The airline said it is now planning to use narrowbody aircraft on much longer segments.

"We believe advanced aircraft technology has changed business dynamics as we can now fly narrowbody aircraft longer... Routes within a six-hour radius from our Kuala Lumpur Int'l hub will then be replaced with A321neo aircraft when the market recovers," Ismail said.

The airline is also negotiating an outright sale of two A330-300s in addition to the possible early returns of some aircraft. According to the ch-aviation fleets advanced module, its fleet currently includes four owned and twenty leased A330-300s. Thai AirAsia X operates twelve A330-300s in addition to the two -900s, all of which are leased. The third AirAsia X unit, Indonesia AirAsia X (XT, Denpasar), has two leased -300s.

In total, the airline plans to reduce its lease expenses by 30%.

Ismail added that in addition to the fleet adjustments, AirAsia X would be "aggressively suspending several routes to ease cash flow in this current period of low air travel demand". The carrier will also seek short-term ACMI opportunities for its aircraft.

According to the carrier's unaudited financial report for 2019, AirAsia X posted a MYR373 million ringgit (USD89 million) net operating loss, Thai AirAsia X - a MYR224 million (USD53 million) loss, and Indonesia AirAsia X ended the year MYR51 million (USD12 million) in the red.