Low-cost carrier AirAsia is eyeing an Australian expansion as it prepares to take delivery of a new long-haul fleet.
The Malaysian-based airline has unveiled the first of its new long-haul fleet at the world’s biggest air show in Paris.
AirAsia says the first of its Airbus A330neo jets will begin flying from Thailand in July, with direct links between Bangkok and Brisbane.
Another will come onboard in August.
AirAsia has ordered 66 of the next generation aircraft, with another two on lease. They will join its existing fleet in the next few years.
As they come into service, the budget carrier will target key destinations – including Australia, South Korea and Japan – as it looks to increase its global footprint.
AirAsia X chief executive Nadda Buranasiri said the airline would use the Queensland experiment to test the strength of the Australian market.
“I think it would a good start for us to understand the market, to understand the passengers, and then we will grow from there,” he said in Paris on Monday.
“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.”
AirAsia already operates about 60 flights in and out of Australia each week.
Mr Buranasiri expects the new planes to operate between Thailand and two or three more Australian cities. They will be based at Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport.
The cut-price carrier is also promising its customers more personal space, quieter cabins and extra bag storage aboard the new wide-bodied aircraft.
Mood lighting, individual power points and ergonomic chairs are also in the mix.
But the real selling point is the A330neo’s fuel efficiency, which allows it to travel far further for less.
Cheaper fuel costs mean direct flights into Europe and the US are also back on the cards.
AirAsia – which gives new routes just one year to prove their worth –previously operated flights into London and Paris, but scrapped them in 2012.
“If within a year it continues to strengthen, we will continue,” its chairwoman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz said.
“But our strategy has always been if within a year we cannot meet all the expectations, because it’s not an efficient route for us, we will discontinue.
“We’re a very practical people, we cannot go on just to service as a charity, you know what I mean?”
AirAsia’s new Airbuses have been configured with 12 premium flatbeds and 377 standard seats. They will have a range of 12,130 kilometres.