Ever since its retreat from Europe in 2012, Air Asia X has regularly reminded fans it would soon make a come back.
Indeed its intended return to Europe was coupled with the news that Malaysian low-cost carrier Air Asia X wanted to open new routes to the US mainland.
But now, reports Skift, Air Asia X has now abandoned plans to fly these long distance routes.
Yesterday, in a series of tweets, CEO Tony Fernandes confirmed the news.
He tweeted, “We have decided that ultra long haul is not relevant now. Won’t get seduced into price wars over London.”
“We will stick to the 8 or 9 hours. Our focus will be to asia with the odd route like hawaii * which is actually 8 hours from Japan.”
“We let the full service guys fight it out over Europe. Many of them bleeding so so much.”
In fact Air Asia X ought to have heeded the advice of its former CEO Azran Osman-Rani who quit the airline early in 2015.
When Air Asia X axed its London Gatwick and Paris Orly routes Osman-Rani claimed that the “sweet spot” for long-haul LCCs (low-cost carriers) was for flights of around eight hours. And that was the length of flights which Air Asia X intended to operate in future.
It meant that, since then, Air Asia X has mainly restricted itself to flights from Kuala Lumpur to destinations such as Australia, Japan, South Korea and northeast China.
Over the years, with fuel prices falling to today’s low levels, Air Asia X began to think it could once again fly truly long-haul routes.
So why has Air Asia X now changed its mind?
I believe there are several reasons:
- Stronger competition on the long-haul routes Air Asia X wanted to fly. So-called full service airlines are more price competitive.
- For flights lasting more than eight hours LCCs face higher operating costs like fuel, staff and aircraft utilisation.
- To keep prices keen the LCCs squeeze in more seats so space/comfort is less than with a full-service carrier. Air Asia X configured its former A340s and newer A330s nine-abreast (3-3-3) in economy for aircraft originally designed to be eight-across (2-4-2). Some passengers prefer more space/comfort especially if the price saving is not great.
- In the case of SE Asia to Europe, Air Asia X (as Business Traveller reported) was being undercut for the Gulf airlines.
- There is no loyalty in the budget airline market. Passengers opt for the cheapest even if it means an indirect flight.
- Last but not least, as I have regularly stated, Air Asia X with its two European routes cannot provide the options available with the Gulf carriers. Why would Malaysians based in Manchester or Glasgow travel down to London when they fly one-stop, more cheaply, via the Gulf?
However that does not mean other LCCs want to give SE Asia to Europe a try.
Norwegian has been flying for a number of years between Scandinavia and Bangkok (but its once ambitious plans for a large Asian network have been abandoned in favour of the transatlantic) and it intends to start a London Gatwick to Singapore service later this year.
While Scoot (the low-cost subsidiary of SIA Singapore Airlines) will be operating in place of SIA between Singapore and Athens this summer.
- Air Asia X will launch a four times a week Kuala Lumpur-Osaka-Honolulu service later this month.