AirAsia, Lion Air bosses spar over plane orders

Thu Mar 21, 2013 11:21am EDT
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By Niki Koswanage and Tim Hepher

KUALA LUMPUR/PARIS (Reuters) - AirAsia (AIRA.KL: Quote) boss Tony Fernandes questioned his rival's growth plans after Lion Air struck a $24 billion Airbus order, while pledging to preserve his own ties with the European jetmaker.

As competition intensifies between Southeast Asia's largest budget carriers, Lion Air co-founder Rusdi Kirana shot back by targeting sharp growth in AirAsia's domestic Malaysian market.

In a realignment of industry loyalties, Indonesia's Lion Air loosened exclusive ties with Boeing this week to place a 234-plane order with Airbus, which is also sole supplier to AirAsia.

Asked if he was upset about the blockbuster deal between his top supplier and his closest rival, Fernandes said, "Why should I be? I think Lion has probably bitten off more than they can chew. We are focused on ourselves".

Lion Air co-founder Rusdi Kirana mocked any suggestion that the airline had over-extended itself.

"Is he an angel? Does he know the future?" Kirana said when asked about Fernandes's comments.

The two airline chiefs discussed the deal in separate interviews with Reuters.

Lion Air is preparing to launch services in Malaysia on Friday through a partially owned venture, Malindo Air, while AirAsia says it is filling planes successfully in Indonesia.   Continued...

Indonesia's Lion Air President Rusdi Kirana delivers his speech during a signing ceremony with Malaysia's National Aerospace and Defence Industries in Kuala Lumpur September 11, 2012. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad