Christchurch could be the next long-haul destination dropped by Air Asia X, according to reports in the Malaysian media.
Earlier this year, the Malaysian budget airline announced it was pulling out of Europe (see online news January 12), and now it seems that its sole destination in New Zealand, launched barely a year ago, may be axed in the coming months.
With London and Paris about to be cut from the network, traffic figures will be hit because Air Asia X will lose those passengers who were using its flights to travel between Europe and New Zealand and vice versa via Kuala Lumpur.
Bookings to New Zealand's second largest city may also have been hit by last year's powerful earthquake which struck Christchurch, killing 185 people.
In any case, it is unclear whether the low-cost airline model works for really long-haul flights, especially in these days of high oil prices.
Quoted in Malaysia’s New Straits Times, the airline’s chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, says that her airline is reviewing all its long-haul networks in view of increasing fuel prices and airport charges. She claims that the most effective operations for Air Asia X were seven and eight-hour flights.
In which case it would suggest that Air Asia X will maintain services to mainland China, South Korea, Japan and Australia as these all have sector lengths of between four and nine hours. But Europe, with its 13-hour flight sectors, will be axed later this month and Christchurch (an 11 hour flight from Kuala Lumpur) could follow.
In other news, it is worrying to note that some Air Asia X passengers booked to and from London and Paris this summer have still not been protected with alternative carriers.
Originally the airline told passengers, via its UK Facebook page and via CEO Azran Osman-Rani’s Twitter page, that it would allocate alternative seats two months before departure. But the process has not gone smoothly.
Report by Alex McWhirter