Lion’s A320s to support launch of new carriers in Asia-Pacific

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Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air has plans to start new airlines in the Asia-Pacific region following its order of 234 Airbus A320 family aircraft.

"We are planning to start a few airlines in a few countries," says Lion chief executive Rusdi Kirana, speaking with Flightglobal. "This is what we will use them for."

On 18 March, Kirana signed a deal for 234 Airbus twinjets at Paris's Élysée Palace, with French President François Hollande and Airbus chief executive Fabrice Brégier in attendance. The deal includes 174 aircraft from the re-engined A320neo family.

Kirana declined to confirm unsourced media reports that Lion has specific plans to create units in Australia and Thailand. "Let's just say that we are looking at Asia-Pacific countries," says Kirana.

Lion has yet to decide the new carriers' business models. Country economics will determine whether a low-cost or another model will be used.

Some of the A320s will also enter service with Lion and its Malaysian unit Malindo Airways, which is set to commence services on 22 March, and its Indonesia-based full-service carrier Batik Airways, which will commence services in April.

Aside from the size of the Airbus deal, it was also significant because it saw Lion move away from its exclusive relationship with Boeing. In November 2011, Lion entered a deal for up to 380 737 family aircraft. This comprised 230 firm orders, and purchase rights for an additional 150 aircraft.

Lion's fleet is comprised exclusively of Boeing aircraft. Flightglobal Pro data shows that it operates 89 737 family aircraft, including 67 737-900ERs. Lion has also ordered five 787-8 aircraft. Originally intended for Batik, they will instead be deployed to Malindo.

Kirana says the company's rapid growth is behind the decision to add Airbus aircraft to its fleet.

"Since we need more aircraft, we have to go two manufacturers," says Kirana. "We need to accelerate delivery of the aircraft."