Airbus has failed to break an impasse with AirAsia over the fate of a multi-billion-dollar order seen as key to the future of its A330neo passenger jet, people familiar with the matter said. AirAsia co-founder Tony Fernandes visited the planemaker this week for talks aimed at shoring up and increasing the existing order for 66 jets, but left Toulouse without signing a deal after what one source described as challenging talks. The future of the deal with the airline's AirAsia X long-haul unit is crucial to the latest version of the A330, a key source of profits at the European group, after a string of market losses to Boeing's competing 787 Dreamliner. Fernandes - who has spoken in the past of switching to the 787 only to reaffirm support for the A330neo and then raise fresh questions over the Airbus deal - publicly set out a list of conditions for confirming the planes this week. These included price, performance, engines and advance payments, he said on his Twitter account, before adding: "Or else" in a remark apparently designed to leave open the prospect of reviving interest in the Boeing jet.
Fernandes, a music executive turned airline mogul, is adroit at keeping suppliers on their toes through his wide social media following. But the suspense over the deal is seen as a crucial test for Airbus as it tries to close a gap in orders this year compared to Boeing and defend the profitable A330 wide-body jet. Sources say relations between Airbus and its largest Asian customer, which has ordered almost 600 single-aisle jets, have deteriorated following management changes at the planemaker and due to differences over prices and advance payment schedules.