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AirAsia X surprises with US$6 billion order for 25 Airbus A330-300 planes

PARIS--Low-cost Malaysian airline AirAsia X announced Wednesday an order of 25 long-range A330-300 aircraft with a catalogue price of nearly US$6 billion (4.4 billion euros) as it looks to return to serving Europe.

“This order stamps our firm intent to dominate the long-haul, low-cost carrier space and marks the next phase in our development to be the undisputed global market leader,” AirAsia X's director Tony Fernandes was quoted as saying in a statement.

Airbus said at a joint press conference in Paris it was the biggest single order for the widebody twin-engine aircraft from an airline, and would begin delivering the planes to the long-haul affiliate of the AirAsia group in 2015.

The order includes the latest version of the A330-300 capable of flying from Asia to Europe or the Americas non-stop.

“We need to come back to Europe and this aircraft is the right aircraft for us to come back,” Fernandes said at the news conference. AirAsia X had previously flown to Paris and London, but halted serving the routes in 2012.

AirAsia X already had 26 of the planes on order and currently operates 16 A330-300 aircraft on routes from Kuala Lumpur to Asian and Middle Eastern destinations.

It also announced Wednesday it was leasing 6 of the aircraft from the U.S. company ILFC.

Fernandes said the AirAsia X is well positioned to dominate the Asian market, and that an announcement of a return to flights to Japan is also close.

He said AirAsia X was looking to emulate the success of Emirates, which has made a success of carrying passengers between continents from its hub in Dubai.

“We will build the equivalent of Emirates in low cost,” said the AirAsia X chief. “We have bases and hubs in many countries, so the power of what we can build is much larger.”

The AirAsia group is one of Airbus' biggest clients, with more than 120 medium-haul A320 planes in use and with several hundred aircraft on order.

In June 2011 the Malaysian company ordered 200 A320 Neo planes with a catalogue price of US$18.24 billion, one of the biggest ever orders of commercial aircraft.

It has also ordered 10 of Airbus' future long-range aircraft, the A350-XWB.

AirAsia saw its third quarter net profit plunge by three-quarters to US$11 million in the third quarter of this year due to foreign exchange losses, but its operating profit and passenger numbers both rose.

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An Airbus A330-300 operated by AirAsia X is shown in this undated photograph released by AirAsia X on May 28, 2011.


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