Malaysia's AirAsia X looks to expand capacity as fortunes improve

[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia's long-haul budget airline AirAsia X is looking to expand capacity on routes such as Australia, China and India, its chief executive said, after the company returned to profit after eight quarters of losses.

AirAsia X Chief Executive Benyamin Ismail also told Reuters the airline, which embarked on a business and organisational restructuring in 2015, intended maintaining its cash position at current levels. "We are sitting at about sub 200 million ringgit cash now, which I told the team to make sure that we don't go anything below that. That's something we are targeting as we move on every day and every month," Benyamin said in an interview.

AirAsia X reshuffled its top management last year and raised US$109 million in an equity rights issue to shore up its finances and turn around its fortunes.

It reported a profit in the fourth quarter late on Friday, ending eight quarters of losses and pushing its share price 8.7 per cent higher by the close of trading on Monday.

Benyamin said the airline was putting back some capacity in Australia and increasing frequency on selected existing routes where demand is high. "Australia is one of our second-biggest revenue generators. We are moving toward China and also India. India was quite a surprise...the loads have exceeded expectations." Its parent firm AirAsia also reported profits last week, on the back of strong passenger numbers at its home base in Malaysia and low fuel costs.

AirAsia X pushed back plane deliveries as it looked to build up cash. It has 10 Airbus A350s and 50 A330neo aircraft on order.

Benyamin said the plane deferral are mostly over. "I give ourselves another one or two years to build that cash, build profitability on all our routes and then later, we will look at bringing more (planes) in, if we want." For the A350s, he said the delivery schedule was 2021, so the airline had enough time to decide whether to proceed or not.


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