AirAsia’s fleet of Airbus A321neo planes are expected to push the budget airlines’ horizons higher in terms of passenger reach. (NSTP/Email)

HAMBURG (GERMANY): AirAsia’s fleet of Airbus A321neo planes are expected to push the budget airlines’ horizons higher in terms of passenger reach.

The first of the 353 planes booked by the airlines arrived in Kuala Lumpur today in the effort to offer lower rates to passengers and break into new markets.

The planes, received during a delivery ceremony here in Germany, have higher performance capacity than the Airbus A320 planes.

The A321neo will begin operating this week from Klia2 to destinations across Asia, starting from Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.

It was delivered in its flight back to Kuala Lumpur with more than 30 media and AirAsia personnel from the Southeast Asian region today.

It offers 50 more seats, better fuel efficiency, and higher capacity engines to enable them to fly one hour longer than A320, delivering pledges for good rates and new routes.

At the handover of the first plane in Airbus delivery centre in Hamburg on Wednesday, AirAsia Indonesia chief executive officer Veranita Yosephine said the A321neo was truly a remarkable aircraft that incorporated the latest technology.

“We could not be more thrilled that it will now be the new backbone of our operations across the AirAsia Group.

“With the 25 per cent increase in passenger capacity and 10 per cent reduction in cost per seat, the A321neo will enable us to maintain low fares so ‘[Everyone Can Fly!’.”

She said the new generation aircraft also unlocked exciting network expansion opportunities with the additional flying time of one-and-a-half hours longer.

“This will enable us to grow and be the largest low-cost carrier in Asia,” she said at the hand over ceremony of the aircraft to AirAsia here.

Also present were Airbus senior vice- president A320 Family Programme Michael Menking and CFM International Southeast Asia region general manager Sean Kim.

In June of this year, AirAsia decided to convert 253 orders of the A320neo aircraft to the larger A321neo.

AirAsia’s aircraft planning and evaluation senior manager Matthew Glaus said the latest A321neo came with 236 seats, making it the widest single-aisle cabin in the sky.

According to Airbus, the A321neo also delivers 20 per cent fuel savings per seat as well as lower CO2 emissions.

It features the latest technologies in air travel and has an expanded seating capacity with optimised use of cabin space.

“The lower fuel cost per seat means opportunities to offer even lower fares. Truly, everyone can fly,” Glaus told the media during a briefing held at the Airbus delivery centre here in Germany on Tuesday.

Glaus said the airline wanted aircraft that had synergy with its current fleet of A320 so it could help them move forward into the future in meeting growing air travel demands.

This he said was due to its plans to boost passenger capacity to address strong demand across its network.

AirAsia currently has around 230 planes in the A320 range in service, flying out of its hubs in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Japan and the Philippines.

In total, AirAsia has placed 592 orders for planes in the A320 range from Airbus, making AirAsia one of the biggest customer for the A321neo, with a total of 353 planes on order.