long-haul carrier Air Asia X has finally announced the launch of flights from
London Stansted to Kuala Lumpur, with lead-in fares starting from £99 one-way including
Tony Fernandes, the ebullient founder of Air Asia X called “the worst kept
secret in the airline industry” (see online news July 30), the Malaysia-based
airline will commence five-times weekly flights on March 11, using Airbus
A340-300 aircraft configured for 286 passengers.
The carrier says
it will look to increase this to a daily service “in the near future”, and
indeed Fernandes said he believed the carrier could eventually serve the route
with “five to seven daily flights”.
start from £99 each way inclusive of taxes and charges, and when Business
Traveller checked today “Promo” economy fares were available at this price on
most days in March and April next year. This compares with a return fare in the
region of £650 with Malaysia Airlines during the same period.
To enable it to
charge such low prices, Air Asia X charges for “extras” including in-flight
food, amenity kits, checked baggage and advanced seat selection. The A340-300
aircraft will be configured with 256 economy seats (with a seat pitch of 32 inches)
and 30 “XL” seats (60-inch pitch), which the carrier says will offer “the spaciousness and comfort equivalent to business class seat
legacy carriers’ without the extra frills like check-in desks and airport
lounges”. Fares for the XL seats will start from £549 each way, and Fernandes
said he was “keen on putting in flat beds” in the future.
Fernandes said that Air Asia X would offer
travellers onward connections across Asia with its established sister
short-haul airline Air Asia, although through checking of baggage would not be
possible until the carrier moves to the forthcoming Low Cost Carrier Terminal
at Kuala Lumpur International airport (KLIA) later next year. He added that while no
formal links have been established with low-cost carriers such as Ryanair to
offer onward travel for European-bound travellers, Stansted was picked “because
of its great low-cost connectivity across Europe”.
Asked why he believed the low-cost,
long-haul concept would work, following the demise of no-frills carrier Oasis
Hong Kong Airlines earlier this year (see online news April 9), Fernandes said
that (unlike Oasis), Air Asia was an established brand with 86 planes and a hub
at KLIA. He added that Air Asia X’s routes to Australia’s Gold Coast airport
(commenced in November 2007) disproved the theory that “you can’t charge for
food on long-haul flights”, and said that one of the major differences between the
carrier and other unsuccessful low-cost long-haul airlines would be the ability
to feed into the short-haul network at KLIA.
London is the carrier’s fifth long-haul destination, after the Gold Coast,
and Hangzhou (around 100 miles southwest of Shanghai). For more
information visit airasia.com.
Report by Mark Caswell