Record fuel prices will not scupper plans to launch budget flights from London to Malaysia, AirAsia’s founder and group chief executive Tony Fernandes has pledged.
Earlier this year, Kuala Lumpur-based AirAsia revealed plans to sell flights from the Malaysian capital to Stansted, under the AirAsia X brand, aiming at business as well as leisure travellers.
A Christmas launch was targeted, but Fernandes 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 percent there,” Fernandes added.
AirAsia 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 Class fares London-Kuala Lumpur were originally set to be around £300 (US$559) return, but Fernandes admitted the oil price meant this was now more likely to be about £350 (US$653).
AirAsia X plans to price its Premium Economy section against Malaysia Airlines’ full-fare Economy Class ticket. Passengers will have to pay for food.
AirAsia says it can risk launching the London service despite the economic uncertainty. Unlike Oasis Hongkong Airlines, which collapsed earlier this year, it has been operating for seven years and already carries 22 million passengers – 7 million more than Malaysia Airlines. AirAsia X already flies to China and Australia from Kuala Lumpur.
“I believe one of the best times to expand is during a period of flux,” said Fernandes.
AirAsia, which continues to fly to heavily oriented holiday destinations, is beginning to target business travellers by expanding on trunk routes between Kuala Lumpur, Hongkong, 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 www.airasia.com