Asian Budget Airline Pioneer Says AirAsia May Buy More Jets

(Bloomberg) -- AirAsia Bhd., the budget airline that has grown to become one of the biggest customers of Airbus SE planes, could consider buying more aircraft as economic expansion across India, China and the Southeast Asian nations propel travel demand across the continent.

“Right now, we are short of aircraft,” Tony Fernandes, AirAsia group chief executive officer, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV’s Haslinda Amin in Davos on Tuesday. “Demand is very, very robust. We would have to look at an order eventually but not at present.”

The British-educated Fernandes, 53, is expanding his Malaysia-based carrier across the continent, doing what Ryanair Holdings Plc did in Europe and Southwest Airlines Co. achieved in North America. A rash of low-cost airlines have come across Asia, driving down fares and enabling more people to take to the skies.

Fernandes’s AirAsia operates an all-Airbus fleet and he is known to make big orders at airshows. In 2016, he announced a $12.6 billion jetliner order with Airbus during the Farnborough Air Show. AirAsia group has more than 200 planes in its fleet and hundreds in order.

To read a profile of Tony Fernandes, click here.

“Airbus has been great,” Fernandes said. “We have brought forward some of our deliveries. We don’t have plans to do so at the moment.”

AirAsia isn’t too worried about the recent rise in oil prices, Fernandes said, adding that the airline doesn’t plan to adjust its hedging program or impose fuel surcharges. He said that oil prices around $60 is still a “honeymoon period” compared with $100 a barrel in 2014.

AirAsia shares are hovering at almost record levels in Malaysia amid a surge in traffic for the carrier. The stock, which has climbed 23 percent this year, fell 0.7 percent to 4.11 ringgit as of 3:58 p.m. in Kuala Lumpur today.

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