The long-haul arm of budget carrier AirAsia said Thursday it would add six leased aircraft to its fleet as it pushes to build up its presence in the Asian region.
AirAsia X, which this year slashed routes to Europe and India to refocus on Asia-Pacific, said it would lease the six Airbus A330-300s from the US-based International Lease Finance Corp in a deal worth approximately $500 million.
The carrier currently operates nine Airbus A330-300s and two A340-300s. It is already awaiting delivery of 17 other aircraft it has purchased from Airbus, the European aerospace giant.
"We intend to deploy the additional capacity with a vision to solidify our positions in our identified core markets including Australia, China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan," AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani said in a statement.
AirAsia X and the leasing firm signed a letter of intent on the deal in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday. AirAsia X will begin taking delivery of the planes next year.
Former record industry executive Tony Fernandes plucked ailing AirAsia from insolvency in 2001 and quickly turned it into a profitable budget carrier and one of the aviation sector's biggest successes.
He established a successful template for AirAsia that included flying into secondary airports in major cities, with their lower landing costs, and launched AirAsia X in 2007 to serve routes beyond the airline's core Southeast Asian market.
But AirAsia X this year cut unprofitable routes to Europe, India and New Zealand to focus on expanding its services to China, Japan and elsewhere in Asia.
Meanwhile, AirAsia has refocused on shoring up its presence in short-haul routes within Asia against a host of new competitors.