“It was so close that a week ago I couldn’t tell you we wouldn’t have cancelled the whole thing and bought Boeing’s 787”. Those were the words of Tony Fernandez, CEO and main shareholder in Air Asia.
The company already had orders for 66 A339’s and Airbus worked long and hard to get them to take that order to 100. The extra 34 were said to be in the bag.
Except they weren’t. In fact, to Airbus’ abject horror they discovered the airline was being assiduously courted by Boeing, offering a tantalising deal on the Dreamliner.
Air Asia wavered – Airbus couldn’t afford to loose 100 A339, that would in effect sink the A330neo programme for good.
Nobody will say what Airbus did to sway Air Asia back their way – but massive discounts – probably as high as 55% were almost certainly involved.
Air Asia finally signed up for the additional 34 and didn’t cancel the first 66, much to the relief of Airbus.
What it means is that almost half of all orders for the A339 are Air Asia, making them to the A330 what Emirates is to the A380 – never an ideal position to be in.