Malaysian maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) provider Sepang Aircraft Engineering (SAE), which is part-owned by European airframer EADS, is expanding its workforce to accommodate its main customer AirAsia and increase Airbus’ customer support in Asia.

SAE CEO Christophe Desages says the MRO currently employs about 300 staff and aims to have 400-500 at the end of 2013. Under a 10-year agreement with AirAsia, SAE has exclusivity over 85% of AirAsia’s A320 fleet, but Desages intends to develop its customer base beyond AirAsia to other Airbus operators in the region. SAE has just signed a five-year agreement with Myanmar Airways International to perform heavy checks on its A320 fleet.

SAE also plans to build additional hangars and later this year start offering heavy maintenance checks on Airbus A330s, says Desages, who hopes construction of the hangars can start in March. The first airline it will target is AirAsia X, which currently assigns its A330 maintenance to Lufthansa Technik Philippines.

SAE also plans to help ATR, another EADS subsidiary, and ATR suppliers with maintenance in the region. EADS has a MRO company in Europe, EADS Seca, that performs engine overhauls on the Pratt & Whitney PW100 engines that power ATRs, and according to Desages SAE is talking to Seca about establishing a facility in Malaysia.

Desages says SAE has signed an agreement with Ratier Figeac, a French company that makes propellers for turboprop aircraft such as the ATR 42/72 and the Airbus Military A400M, to support the European company’s customers in the region, which will include Malaysia’s air force.

SAE plans to sign more agreements with manufacturers of aircraft components.

According to Desages, Airbus has concluded that it needs a larger global footprint for its customer support, especially once its launches the A350, and that Airbus ‚Äúcan no longer send 20 people from Toulouse to support every entry into service of the A350.‚ÄĚ