Indonesia‚Äôs Lion Air plans to place an order for two Hawker 900XP business jet aircraft to start its new, yet-to-be-named, premium carrier, which initially will operate charters, but may later move into scheduled operations.
A senior official at Lion, who wishes to remain anonymous, says the airline plans to sign a firm contract soon for the purchase of two 900XPs for delivery in February. Lion‚Äôs founder and president director, Rusdi Kirana, decided on the 900XP, says the executive, adding that Rusdi has had good experiences flying on this aircraft type in the U.S. when he visited Seattle.
Lion is a low-cost carrier that operates primarily-900ERs in a single-class configuration. The 900XPs are for a new business jet operation that Lion is establishing and that will cater to business travelers, says the executive, adding that it will be a charter operation.
But other, lower-level Lion executives told Aviation Week that Lion plans for this new premium business to also operate737-800s in a two-class configuration and on a scheduled basis. They say Lion wants the new premium carrier to compete head-to-head with . The move comes partly in response to the fact that Garuda is entering the low-cost carrier segment of the market by funding the rapid expansion of Citilink, a wholly owned strategic business unit of Garuda that is a low-cost carrier.
The more senior Lion executive, however, says no decision has been made on whether the new premium carrier will move into scheduled operations and operate 737-800s. But he says it is something management is considering. Lion recently switched 12 of its 737-900ERs on order to 737-800s. The executive says, at this stage, these 737-800s are headed to Lion mainline.
Lion has tried in the past to move into the premium segment using the Lion brand and today it still has about 12 737-900ERs configured with economy and business-class seats. These aircraft are mostly assigned to its international routes, such as Singapore-Denpasar Bali. But the carrier found it is hard to attract business-class travelers with its Lion brand. This is because the operation is so closely associated with the low-cost segment of the market, hence the need to establish a new brand to cater to business travelers.