AirAsia X offers a year's unlimited flights for $181 in response to coronavirus

AirAsia X is offering unlimited international flights for a year for just 499 ringgit ($A181) as the coronavirus hits passenger numbers.

Passengers will be able to fly from the airline's home base in Malaysia to Australia, Japan, China, India and South Korea as many times as they like.

The bad news is the deal is not available to Australians, only to Malaysia-based members of the airlines' BIG loyalty scheme.

The AirAsia Unlimited Pass went on sale Saturday and will only be available until March 7. Among the various terms and conditions, passengers will still have to pay taxes, airport fees and charges. They will be able to use the pass until March 2, 2021.

"This is unprecedented," said AirAsia X Malaysia CEO Benyamin Ismail in a statement. "However, AirAsia has always been known as the disruptor and we want to restore traveller's confidence amid the current sentiment towards flying.

"Travelling is still very safe as long as everyone travels responsibly and is kept updated by World Health Organisation (WHO) or respective government's travel advice."

Meanwhile, AirAsia X said it will defer delivery of 78 Airbus A330neo planes and consider other changes to reduce its fleet, as the coronavirus outbreak adds pressure on the loss-making carrier.

AirAsia X said late on Thursday it might sell two A330s that could fetch up to $US100 million ($153 million) and return five others to lessors early, adding it was already in negotiations with lessors about a targeted 30% cut in lease rates.

The airline cancelled 600 flights for March, according to an investor presentation published after it reported a higher quarterly net loss. AirAsia X flagged lower forward bookings and pressure on fares in the presentation.

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The virus has deepened the challenges facing the airline and sister carrier AirAsia Group, whose Chief Executive Tony Fernandes and Chairman Kamarudin Meranun have both stepped aside for at least two months amid investigations into a corruption scandal. Airbus was alleged to have paid a $US50 million bribe for plane orders.

Brendan Sobie, a Singapore-based independent aviation analyst, said AirAsia X was highly exposed to China and other markets in North Asia significantly impacted by the coronavirus but the carrier was also in a weak financial position prior to the crisis.

AirAsia X shares fell by 5 per cent on Friday to a record low after it posted a net loss of 95.8 million ringgit in the quarter ended December 31, increasing from an 88.1 million ringgit loss a year ago.

Flights to and from mainland China accounted for about 30 per cent of AirAsia X's capacity before the outbreak of the virus. It has a fleet of 24 A330 planes.

The carrier last August reached a revised deal with Airbus to take 78 A330neos and 30 long-range A321XLR narrowbodies, down from earlier plans for 100 A330neos. AirAsia X is Airbus' biggest customer for the A330neo, a more fuel efficient version of the older A330 model.

AirAsia X said delivery of the A330neos would be deferred and it would move toward a dual-fleet strategy with A321s set to replace its A330s on routes of four to six hours when demand recovers.

"We believe advanced aircraft technology has changed business dynamics as we can now fly narrow body aircraft longer," AirAsia X Malaysia CEO Benyamin Ismail said in a statement.

An AirAsia X spokeswoman said the airline was evaluating market conditions and had yet to confirm the duration of the A330neo delivery deferrals. An Airbus spokesman said the manufacturer does not comment on delivery schedules for individual airlines.

with Reuters

See also: Cheap airfares likely as airlines struggle to fill seats

See also: Airline review: AirAsia's Premium Flatbed is business class for economy price

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