By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

HAMBURG, Germany — Philippines AirAsia, Inc. is looking to acquire an Airbus A321neo, an aircraft designed to reduce fuel consumption by 20% and accommodate more passengers.

This announcement comes after Malaysia-based AirAsia Group Berhad received its first of 353 A321neos ordered from Airbus at a delivery ceremony here on Wednesday.

Philippines AirAsia Chief Executive Officer Ricky P. Isla said the low-cost carrier is currently in the process of “concretizing plans to purchase an A321neo” from Airbus.

“We continue to achieve our operational goals with our existing 24 A320s. Investing in newer additional aircraft will be advantageous for any airline in a slot-constrained environment,” he told reporters here.

AirAsia Group will initially use the new A321neo for flights from Kuala Lumpur to two domestic destinations such as Kuching and Kota Kinabalu and three international flights to Singapore, Bangkok, and Shenzhen.

Mr. Isla noted that the A321neo, which has 50 more seats compared to the previous A320neo, provides “opportunities to offer even lower fares to flying guests.”

“Eventually, majority of our aircraft will be A321neos and this is across the whole fleet,” AirAsia Group Aircraft Planning & Evaluation Head Matthew Glaus told reporters on Tuesday.

Limited airport slots, particularly in Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, are a consideration in tapping these A321neos.

“So any airport that’s suffering today, it’s gonna have an opportunity to see A321neos… Another thing, we see strong demand in terms of passengers. Eventually, the standard will be the A321neo aircraft across our fleet including the Philippines,” Mr. Glaus said.

In his speech during the delivery ceremony on Wednesday, A320 Family Programme Head Michael Menking of Airbus said: “Following the first A321neo, more deliveries to AirAsia will begin and it will continue for quite some time as the airline has ordered a total of 353 A321neo aircraft.”

He noted that the A321neo is a response to the “ongoing strong demand” across AirAsia’s network and “to open up new routes, enabling more people to fly further at a lower cost than ever before.”

AirAsia Indonesia Chief Executive Officer Veranita Yosephine said the A321neos will allow the company to grow further and become the largest low-cost carrier in Asia.

“I’m looking forward to how the A321neo can contribute to our expansion network in Indonesia,” she added.

Airbus said in a statement that the A321neo has “over 20%” less fuel consumption per seat compared to the previous generation A320neo. It also has a maximum flight range of 5.5 hours, or an hour higher than A320neo’s, which means that new destinations can be explored across Southeast Asia and beyond.

Other features of the A321neo include lightweight and slimline seats with a mobile phone or tablet holder; three rows with a seat pitch of 37” or above; three additional rows of hot seats rows; USB in-seat power in every seat; and Rokki WiFi providing entertainment, shopping, and internet speed up to 10MB/s.

Airbus said further that the A320 family received a total of 7,000 orders from at least 110 company customers globally as of end of October 2019.

AirAsia’s current fleet consists of 194 A320CEOs (68 fitted with Sharklets), 40 A320Neos, 36 A330s, and two A330Neos. It has backlog of 13 A320Neos, 352 A321Neos, 30 A321XLRs, and 78 A330Neos.