PARIS (Reuters) - Malaysian long-haul budget carrier AirAsiaX
Malaysian airline entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, whose AirAsia group has already ordered more than 542 smaller Airbus planes, described the move as a bid to set up the low-cost equivalent of a major connecting carrier such as Emirates.
AirAsiaX will continue to focus on its core Asian market but hopes to restart flights to Europe, which were suspended during the region's financial crisis, from around 2016, he said.
"We are stepping into a new direction for low-cost carriers ... We are going to bust open a new market and make the world smaller," Fernandes said.
The deal is the largest single airline order for the current-generation Airbus wide-body jets.
AirAsiaX Chief Executive Azran Osman Rani said he expected strong Asian demand in the future given that low-cost airlines had not penetrated the market in that part of the world as much as in Europe or the United States.
"I will bet my bottom dollar that this is not the last order we will place," he told Reuters.
The carrier, the long-haul arm of Asia's largest low-cost airline by passengers, AirAsia
It plans to build long-haul hubs on the back of existing AirAsia short-haul networks, focusing initially on a corridor of demand from North Asia to Australia via Southeast Asia.
AirAsiaX said it would have 57 owned or leased wide-body jets by 2019.
(Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Brian Love and David Evans)