Opening Myanmar airline talks ’have stopped’

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BANGKOK (Reuters) –Talks between AirAsia Group Bhd and a partner to open an airline in Myanmar have stopped, the group’s chief executive told reporters on Tuesday.

Chief Executive Tony Fernandes told Reuters in March his budget carrier was in talks with a potential partner to open an airline serving Myanmar, which would help the low-cost carrier to cover up to 95 per cent of the Southeast Asian travel market.

But Fernandes told reporters at an AirAsia event here: “The negotiations have stopped. We are not moving ahead with Myanmar at the moment… We might revisit that but we’ve decided not to go toMyanmar just yet.”

He did not disclose the potential partner.

Fernandes said he expected AirAsia’s Vietnam joint venture to be flying by the end of the year or early 2019.

Fernandes tentatively reconfirmed the group’s commitment to the A330neo jet at the event in Bangkok celebrating the carrier’s half-a-billion customer milestone.

Fernandes, who is Co-Group CEO of AirAsia X, the long-haul arm of AirAsia, said the neo was still the “favourite choice of aircraft” for AirAsia X.

“It looks a fantastic aircraft. It looks everything that we thought it would be but we’re holding off at the moment until we see exactly how it performs,” he added.

Boeing has been trying to convince AirAsiaX to abandon the A330neo and switch to its newer 787 Dreamliner.

Shares in AirAsia Group fell as much as 10 percent on Monday in the first trading session since Fernandes apologised for endorsing former Malaysian leader Najib Razak days before he lost a general election last week to veteran politician Mahathir Mohamad, 92.

Fernandes apologised and said he was under intense pressure to support the Najib government.

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