Kirana says the 737-9 configured with an all-economy layout will have capacity for 225 seats. Lion’s President Director also notes, “that’s good for low cost, but the other good thing about the MAX is it has got good range and will be capable of 6-7 hr. flights non-stop with a full payload. So we can do a lot with this aircraft whether we fly it as a low-cost carrier or if we fly it on medium-range with slightly lower capacity. We are happy with what they [Boeing] are promising. The range is better than the -900ER and so is the fuel burn. The extra range will open up new routes.”
In addition to the 737 backlog, Lion also has five Boeing 787-8s on order and options on five more. The first five, at least two of which could be operated by Thai Lion, are part of the early build batch of 787s that were not configured with the optimized structure of the current production standard. “We are trying to see what we will do with them,” says Kirani.
Describing the batch as “teenager” aircraft, he adds that Lion “got a pretty good deal. But we don’t need that aircraft to fly further than what we need, although for sure they are a little heavier.”
Kirani acknowledges that Thai Lion has expressed a desire to use some of these aircraft on longer-haul operations, adding, “We are working on that.” The aircraft are believed to be Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-powered line numbers 10, 13, 15, 16 and 18. Meanwhile, delivery of the first A320 is expected in July 2014. The aircraft will be the first of 234 Airbus narrowbodies ordered in March this year, including 109 re-engined A320neos, 65 A321neos and 60 current production A320s.
Kirani says the dual purchase of Airbus and Boeing fleets is driven by Lion’s ambitious growth strategy. “We have big plans for our development and I don’t think one original equipment manufacturer can fulfill that. That’s why we bought Airbus after we bought Boeing. We bought Airbus because we need more aircraft. We can’t get them fast enough,” he said.