Thai AirAsia's (TAA) fleet modernisation marked a new chapter yesterday as its first Airbus A320 jet installed with energy-saving wing tips took to the skies.
Thai AirAsia staff pose with the airline’s first Airbus A320 jet installed with energy-saving wing tips, which entered service yesterday. The wing tips are supposed to cut fuel bills by 4%.
The entry of the A320 Sharklets came as TAA chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld announced the low-cost carrier's aggressive expansion this year with an expected 20% boost in passenger volumes and a goal to "dominate" the Thai skies, increasing coverage of Indochina and Myanmar.
TAA wants 10 million passengers in 2013, 2 million more than last year, while strengthening its share in the domestic air travel market to 50% from last year's 37%.
The new A320 Sharklet is TAA's 28th jet, and six more planes will join its fleet this year. Mr Tassapon said TAA hopes to introduce more A320s with the Sharklet feature.
The airline wants 48 jets in its fleet, all A320s, over the next few years. TAA is among the world's first operators of the Sharklet, the second obtained by the AirAsia group.
Parent AirAsia Malaysia took delivery of the world's first Sharklets in December.
Executives at AirAsia group said the group expects to receive five A320 Sharklets this year, including the one that just entered TAA's service: two to AirAsia Japan, one to Philippines' AirAsia and one to Indonesia AirAsia.
AirAsia group operates 118 A320s and some 30 more aircraft are expected to be delivered to its subsidiaries this year.
The group ordered 475 A320s from Airbus with delivery up to 2021.
The newly designed wing tips reduce fuel burn and emissions by improving the aerodynamics of the aircraft. This cuts fuel bills by around 4%, with Sharklets allowing either 100 more nautical miles in range or up to 450 kilogrammes in payload capability, according to Airbus.
Mr Tassapon noted the increased capacity will allow it to blanket the domestic skies with more frequencies, especially on trunk routes like those to Chiang Mai, Phuket and Krabi. The capacity bump also allows TAA to put greater focus on Indochina and Myanmar, the emerging markets.
But he conceded Cambodia and Laos are not yet ready to open their doors for flights to Vientiane and Seam Reap.
TAA also wants to start serving Bagan and Nay Pyi Taw from Bangkok, in addition to its Yangon and Mandalay routes, but the lack of proper ground handling services at those airports is an obstacle, he added.
The airline plans to commence service from Bangkok to Kunming in mid-year, while "a couple" of other Chinese cities are expected to be added this year.
Meanwhile, TAA has decided to suspend its Chiang Mai base, one of three Thai hubs, on March 1 this year as it looks to consolidate at its Bangkok hub, Don Mueang Airport.
About the author
- Writer: Boonsong Kositchotethana
Position: Deputy Editor Business