A purchase by Sir Richard Branson of the Singapore International Airlines' 49% holding in Virgin Atlantic Airways has not been ruled out. Asked in Kuala Lumpur, (Malaysia), where he announced a 20% investment by Virgin Group in AirAsia X, Sir Richard said: "Not for the moment, but you never know what might happen in the future."
Virgin airline interests are global including Virgin Blue Holdings, Australia's second-biggest airline, Virgin Nigeria Airways and Virgin America.
A spin-off from the successful AirAsia carrier, AirAsia X was first announced earlier this year with an order for 15 Airbus A330. It describes itself as a long haul low cost airline and plans to commence operations in the fourth quarter of 2007 with non-stop services from Kuala Lumpur to points in Asia Pacific which are yet to be confirmed.
Founder and director of AirAsia X, Tony Fernandes, stated: "AirAsia X aims to dramatically expand the market for long haul, value-based travel - both leisure and business related, and reinforce Malaysia's status as a low cost aviation pioneer, through achieving an industry leading cost per ASK (available seat kilometre) of less than two US cents.
”AirAsia X will simplify the current long haul product and provide highly affordable, value-for-money travel without sacrificing core passenger comforts essential over longer flight times.”
Sir Richard Branson confirmed his investment in AirAsia X: "Tony Fernandes and his team have had phenomenal success with AirAsia on the short haul and we believe they will have the same success with AirAsia X on the long haul. I am thrilled to be able to support them in this venture and look forward to seeing low cost long haul travel being opened up from their base in Malaysia.
”I wish Tony and his team every success and cannot wait to join them on an AirAsia flight in the near future.”
AirAsia X also took the opportunity to pay a tribute to the pioneer and founder of the low cost model, the late Sir Freddie Laker. The airline's first aircraft will be named ”Semangat Sir Freddie” (Spirit of Sir Freddie). Fred's son Freddie Allen Laker Jr was on hand to receive a model A330.