AirAsia X CEO makes ice-cream themed dig at Vanilla Air

TOKYO (AFP) - The chief executive of AirAsia X, whose parent company's joint venture with Japan's ANA ended in a spat over business practices, made an ice-cream-themed dig at their former partners on Friday.

Asked what he thought the impact would be of Vanilla Air, the re-branded budget carrier due to be launched by All Nippon Airways later this year, Mr Azran Osman-Rani said: "First of all, strawberry flavour is always better than vanilla."

Executives of AirAsia Japan this week announced the name - despite its connotations of "boring" or "bland" in the West - following the dispute between the airline's parent companies, Malaysia-based AirAsia, known for its bright red livery, and ANA, which now wholly owns the carrier.

The airlines announced in June that the joint venture would be terminated by the end of October, just over a year after the carrier began flying out of Tokyo's Narita airport.

AirAsia said at the time there had been "fundamental difference of opinion between its shareholders on how the business should be managed from cost management to where the domestic business operations should be based".

Mr Azran said Friday that AirAsia X, which operates middle- and long-haul flights for the AirAsia group, will continue expanding its business in Japan and other Asia-Pacific countries.

"For AirAsia X it doesn't change the fact we see a huge potential in continuing to invest" in the market, he said, as he announced more flights linking Kuala Lumpur and Japan's western Kansai International Airport.

"I am very sure that AirAsia as a group remains very committed to Japan."

Vanilla Air, which will begin flights in late December with two passenger planes to be leased from ANA, is to target travellers heading for resort destinations.