More than 85% of the carrier's A320s go to SAE for base maintenance, and SAE plans to nearly double its workforce and add new hangars, including ones for A330 maintenance, this year in hopes of drawing more business from its biggest partner.
But Tajuddin emphasizes that flexibility remains vital; he looks for agreements of only 2-3 years. “When you have long-term [contracts], you do not have the ability to go out to the market, especially in the airframe business,” in which he says maintenance unit costs may be volatile when man-hours drop.
When asked if AirAsia might consider adding capabilities beyond line maintenance via a partnership or an independent investment, Tajuddin says, “We are actively looking, because our base load with the number of aircraft sometimes justifies our having our own maintenance infrastructure.”
Given that AirAsia took delivery of its first aircraft in 2005, landing gear overhauls will soon start to come due in volume. “We have asked ourselves, 'Should we invest in a landing gear shop?'” he says. “We do not have any firm idea yet, but we are actively looking.” He notes that he would rather pair up with an independent provider than an airline-affiliated MRO to ensure his fleet has priority.
Jetstar Airways applies a common approved maintenance program across its two main branches, in Australia and New Zealand, as well as its low-cost offshoots in Singapore, Vietnam and Japan. A new affiliate is anticipated to kick off operations soon in Hong Kong, subject to regulatory approval.
In launching Jetstar Japan, which started receiving A320s in April 2012, the group has stuck to that common maintenance philosophy. “Where appropriate, we develop amendments to satisfy local national airworthiness authority regulatory requirements,” says Chris Snook, Jetstar executive manager for group engineering. “This allows for common fleet technical management and configuration control across the fleet. It also maximizes our opportunities to apply insights gained from across the organization to improve safety, reliability and direct maintenance costs.”
But, like AirAsia, Jetstar considers line-maintenance control particularly important. Jetstar Japan performs its own line maintenance in partnership with Japan Airlines Engineering Co.; along with Mitsubishi Corp. and Century Tokyo Leasing Corp. JAL Engineering conducts A checks for Jetstar Japan at Narita International Airport.
The Hong Kong business will be a joint venture between China Eastern Airlines, Shun Tak Holdings and the Qantas Group. Snook says line maintenance for it will be conducted by its MRO partner in Hong Kong. “Heavy maintenance requirements will be combined with other group activity to leverage economies of scale,” he says.
For their part, the region's independent MROs are making plays to accommodate the new work volume, too. The joint venture with Cebu Pacific is only one of 25 that Siaec operates in nine countries, with the aim of offering better cost efficiencies to low-cost carriers, says a Siaec spokesperson. And Lufthansa Technik Philippines recently underwent an organizational restructuring with the aim of capturing more of the Airbus base maintenance work in which it specializes.