January 23, 2018 / 1:05 PM / in 7 months

Budget airline AirAsia to add around 30 jets this year amid strong demand - CEO

(Reuters) - Budget airline group AirAsia (AIRA.KL) plans to add around 30 jets to its airline affiliates across Asia this year due to strong demand growth across the region, Chief Executive Tony Fernandes said on Tuesday.

AirAsia, which flies close to 200 airplanes and is the largest operator of Airbus’s (AIR.PA) best-selling A320 jet, has airlines in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Japan and plans to grow in China and Vietnam.

“We’ve been able to get the Philippines and Indonesia really rocking, turning them into little gems,” Fernandes told Reuters TV on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

“Demand is good, the ancillary model is doing well and our JV business using our data has started moving.”

Fernandes said the board of AirAsia’s Indian arm, a joint venture with Tata Group, had approved plans to pursue an initial public offering and was appointing bankers for initial work.

“India is going to be a real nice surprise for AirAsia,” he said.

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The Indian government this month said it would allow foreign investors to participate in a planned privatisation process for rival state-owned carrier Air India, but Fernandes on Tuesday ruled out AirAsia’s involvement.

“We know what we are good at - low cost,” he said. “Air India is a great airline, but it is really not our business model and not something that we would be involved in.”

Fernandes told Bloomberg on Tuesday the group will look at ordering more airplanes “eventually but not at present”.

AirAsia also has no plans to bring forward deliveries despite strong demand, he said.

Since Fernandes bought what was then a debt-laden carrier for the token price of one Malaysian rinngit in 2001, AirAsia has expanded to become one of the world’s largest low-cost airline groups as well as one of Airbus’s biggest customers worldwide.

Industry experts have begun to question whether AirAsia will remain exclusively linked to Airbus as it expands, with some suggesting that Boeing 787s could fit into its long-haul operations. Boeing and Airbus are fighting for twin-aisle sales.

Airbus and Boeing declined to comment.

Reporting by Jamie Freed in Singapore, Additional reporting by Tim Hepher in Dublin; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Conor Humphries

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