SEPANG: Decked in AirAsia Group's red livery, the "baby" of the family was welcomed with open arms.
AirAsia Group on Friday (Nov 22) welcomed its first Airbus A321neo into its 272-aircraft fleet.
The aircraft is the first of 353 A321neos on order by AirAsia from European aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
It took off from Hamburg in Germany on Wednesday (Nov 20) after AirAsia received its delivery there.
AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes said that the A321neo aircraft will be the "backbone" of AirAsia's future operations, given the model's capacity to carry more passengers and its fuel saving capabilities.
"The aircraft is important to our sustainability efforts as it allows more than 10% in fuel savings compared to our present planes," said Fernandes, adding that the new A321neo aircraft will first be deployed for its popular routes.
He said that the delivery of the first A321neo was also in line with the Visit Malaysia Year 2020 campaign's aim to bring in more tourists into the country.
"The new generation state-of-the-art aircraft will allow AirAsia to further boost air connectivity to-and-fro the country ahead of Visit Malaysia 2020, at the same time deliver greater opportunities for tourism, business and trade in line with the government’s Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, ” he added.
Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi who was present at the ceremony to unveil the aircraft at the Sepang Aircraft Engineering building said that he hoped that the deployment of the new Airbus A321neos would bring in more tourists into the country.
"This new aircraft has more seating capacity and it can fly longer distances, so it is hoped that it can bring in more tourists.
"With more tourists, there will be more business for Malaysians involved in the tourism industry, such as hoteliers," said Mohamaddin.
He also praised AirAsia for helping to bring in more tourists from the Asean region into the country.
Also present at the ceremony were France's ambassador to Malaysia Frederic Laplanche, Airbus chief commercial officer Christian Scherer, and Airbus Asia Pacific president Patrick de Castelbajac.
AirAsia had earlier this year converted 253 orders for the A320neo to the larger A321neo version - making AirAsia one of the world’s largest customers for the A321neo.