AirAsia, Avolon to create ride sharing platform in SE Asia

The platform is expected to roll out by early 2025, Fernandes says

by ASILA JALIL / pic by BERNAMA

AIRASIA Aviation Group Ltd and international aircraft leasing company Avolon Aerospace Leasing have signed a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MoU) for AirAsia to lease a minimum of 100 VX4 eVTOL aircraft from Avolon and create a ride sharing platform in South-East Asia (SE Asia).

The aircrafts are expected to enable the airlines company to further revolutionise air travel by providing advanced air mobility to the public and enhance efficient connectivity.

In addition to the eVTOL aircraft, Avolon, through its investment and innovation affiliate Avolon-e, will partner with AirAsia to commercialise zero-emissions eVTOL aircraft and develop an industry leader urban air mobility (UAM) platform in SE Asia.

Capital A Bhd CEO Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes (picture) said the ride sharing platform is expected to roll out by early 2025.

“We are currently working with the regulators to get air traffic system certification done and we are very optimistic on that side. We want to do it as soon as possible. We will be doing the groundwork now,” he said in a press conference yesterday.

Both parties will form a working group to pursue local certification, research potential, market opportunities and infrastructure requirements for UAM.

AirAsia will also leverage its AirAsia Super App to help support and build an eVTOL ride sharing platform with Avolon.

Fernandes said the teams are working with a pricing of US$1 (RM4.19) per km and they do not see pricing as an inhibitor for the platform.

The route structure for the aircraft is “limitless” as Fernandes stated that there is so much potential that the VX4 could reach, especially destinations that are further away from airports.

“When you look at the routes, there is just so much potential. The first one would be Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to a landing spot somewhere in the city centre. KL to Genting Highlands is another no brainer.

“Destinations that are a little further from airports such as a resort in Pulau Pangkor. The beauty of this is it opens up a lot of opportunities in tourism.

“It is key for us in choosing Avolon because if this was an aircraft that is just going to be limited to a few people, then it is not something AirAsia can be involved in. But it is a mass product and we want to make sure VX4 will be very accessible to the world,” said Fernandes.

Avolon ordered 500 VX4 eVTOL aircraft from Vertical Aerospace in June 2021, valued at US$2 billion.

Since announcing the order, Avolon placed 250 of the aircraft with Gol and Groupo Comporte in Brazil, up to 100 aircraft with Japan Airlines Co Ltd and a minimum of 100 aircraft with AirAsia. Avolon has now placed up to 90% of its initial orderbook.

Avolon CEO Dómhnal Slattery said there is no real limit on the number of utilisations per day for the aircraft as it all boils down to the battery charging time.

“We assume the aircraft will operate between 10 and 12 hours a day. The cruising altitude is still being worked out with the regulators but our understanding is it would be in between 2,000 and 4,000 ft.

“Somewhere in that zone where commercial airlines do not operate in unless for takeoffs or landing so it is a safe zone to operate in,” he said.

He added that both parties had ensured the aircraft is designed for optimum safety of passengers in comparison to helicopters.

Slattery added that the operating cost of the aircraft is 80% lower than a helicopter because of its much simpler design, particularly due to its engine.

“There is no single point of fault in the airplane so it is 100% safer than a helicopter and is designed to be that way.

“We have taken all of the lessons of helicopter dynamics and applied them to this aircraft to make it safe for people to travel in,” he added.