News

Air Asia to go ahead with London-Malaysia launch

29 Jul 2008 by Mark Caswell

Record fuel
prices will not scupper plans to launch budget flights from London
to Malaysia,
Air Asia’s boss has pledged.

Kuala
Lumpur-based Air Asia revealed plans to sell flights from Stansted to the
Malaysian capital under the Air Asia X brand earlier this year, aiming at
business as well as leisure travellers.

A Christmas
launch was targeted, but Tony Fernandes, Air Asia founder and group chief
executive, said problems sourcing a suitable aircraft had led to a slight
delay.

“The earliest
will now be next March and the latest, June. We were hoping to start in
November or December,” he said. A team is currently in final talks at Stansted.
“We are 90 per cent there,” said Fernandes.

Air Asia X has
sourced an Airbus A340-300 on which it will carry 386 passengers, including 58
in a premium economy cabin. This will have inclined flatbed seats with a
50-inch pitch.

Economy fares
were originally set to be around £300 return, but Fernandes admitted the oil
price meant this was now more likely to be about £350.

Air Asia X plans
to price its premium economy section against Malaysia Airlines’ full fare
economy ticket. Passengers in both classes will have to pay for food.

Air Asia
believes it can risk launching the London
service despite the economic uncertainty. Unlike Oasis Hong Kong Airlines,
which collapsed earlier this year, Air Asia has been operating for seven years
and already carries 22 million passengers – 7 million more than Malaysia
Airlines. Air Asia X already flies to China
and Australia from Kuala Lumpur.

“I have taken
the view that one of the best times to expand is during a period of flux,” said
Fernandes.

Air Asia X, in
which Sir Richard Branson owns a 20 per cent stake, is bringing its sponsorship of
Manchester United to an end and will instead use the Virgin connection to
publicise its UK
launch next year.

Its parent
company is also targeting business travellers by expanding on trunk routes
between Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore.

It flies seven
times a day to Bangkok
and hopes to expand its Kuala Lumpur-Singapore service from two to eight a day
when an open skies deal comes into force in December.

“Our target is
15 times a day, there is a huge market,” Fernandes said.

For more information visit airasia.com.

Report by Gary Noakes

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