A key player in the budget international air travel industry is using Australia as an “experiment” as it orders new aircraft that look to shake up the low-cost market.
AirAsia is looking to establish an anchor between Queensland and Asia, with its new Airbus A330neo jets to start flying between Brisbane and Bangkok next month – and if it’s successful, Australian travellers can expect to see more routes to more cities.
The A330neo will overhaul the low-cost market, promising customers more personal space, quieter cabins and bonus bag storage, all aboard a wider-bodied craft.
In a shift towards the luxe side of air travel, the A330s will also include mood lighting, individual power points and ergonomic chairs, to service 12 premium flatbeds and 377 standard seats.
The Malaysian-based company is able to bolt on the extras thanks to the jet’s bolstered fuel efficiency, which allows it to fly further on less fuel.
It has ordered 66 of the next-gen 330s to add to its existing fleet of 36.
At the Paris Air Show this week, announcing the company’s plans, AirAsia X chief executive Nadda Buranasiri said they would use the Queensland pilot to test the strength of the Australian market.
“We need to be sure that when we go in, the market will grow, so right now I can’t tell you which the next destination will be,” Mr Buranasiri told AAP.
He said he expected the new planes to be flying between Thailand and three Australian cities, should the venture take off.
Dutch airline KLM is also expanding its offerings, announcing earlier this month that it has thrown money behind the development of a V-shaped aeroplane that will see passengers seated inside the wings.
Nicknamed the Flying V – for obvious reasons – it would use 20 per cent less fuel than the most sophisticated aircraft currently roaming the skies.
It will be capable of carrying 314 passengers and 160 square metres of cargo, KLM said in a statement.
The idea came from a student at the Technical University of Berlin, and is now being brought to fruition through a partnership with the airline and the Delft Technical University in the Netherlands.
In a statement, the Dutch university said it hoped to have a prototype ready by October.
While it will definitely look different from the outside, passengers can prepare for a new-look interior, too.
Not only will seating layouts be reconfigured to fit within the wings, passengers could be spending more time on their feet.
The university’s release hinted at buffet-style food servings, for instance, over traditional service.
“The new shape of the aircraft means we have exciting opportunities to design the interior, making flying more comfortable for passengers,” said Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering Professor Peter Vink, who is taking part in the project.
“For instance, as part of the Flying-V research, we’re looking into new options to having a rest or taking meals on a plane.”
Airbus continues sky domination
Airbus has thrown more barbs at plagued Boeing, at the Paris Air Show.
It unleashed plans for the world’s longest range, single-aisle airliner, the A321XLR, which is expected to hit the skies within five years.
Its introduction will open up more direct international flights, CNN reported, such as Australia to China.
The A321XLR will be capable of 8700-odd kilometre flights, a 15 per cent increase from its predecessor.
At the air show, Boeing did not announce any new orders for any of its planes, in contrast to Airbus’ 120-plus orders.