Five of the newest Asian low-cost carriers

10 Oct 2012

The rapid economic development of countries across Asia and their expanding middle-classes is creating a huge demand for economical flights around the region. As a result, regional low-cost carriers are thriving and hardly a month goes by without the announcement of a new no-frills airline seeking to tap into this ever-expanding market. The following, in order of launch date, is a round up of the most recent low-cost carriers that have taken (or are planning to take) to the sky in Asia. 


When did it launch? The airline plans to start flights on March 1, 2013

Main hub: This will be Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA)

Where does it currently fly? Routes not yet disclosed.

Any expansion plans? A spokesperson for the airline said it will position KLIA as a transit hub for Indonesian passengers connecting to regional Asia destinations. They said the airline is eying international routes in China as well as key Asean destinations within a four-hour flight range.

How does the airline provide low fares? There’s little information on this yet, but a spokesperson said Malindo will use new Boeing 737-900ERs and passengers will enjoy greater legroom with a seat pitch of 31 inches, inflight entertainment and light snacks on board.

What is its baggage policy? NA

Other extra services: NA

Jetstar Japan

When did it launch? July 3, 2012

Main hub: Tokyo Narita International Airport

Where does it currently fly? The airline flies from Tokyo Narita to Osaka Kansai, Sapporo Shin Chitose, Fukuoka, and Okinawa. It also flies from Osaka Kansai to Fukuoka and Sapporo.

Any expansion plans? Jetstar Japan is starting flights between Osaka and Okinawa from October 28. It also plans to launch its first international flights sometime in 2013, but has not disclosed the intended destinations yet. The airline currently has four aircraft in operation, but this will increase to seven by the end of the year and they expect to have 24 aircraft operating by the end of 2014.

How does the airline provide low fares? An amenity kit, excess luggage, inflight meals and drinks, and seat booking are unbundled from airfares so that customers can choose only what they need. The airline also keeps operation costs low by using only one type of aircraft, and turning them around in under 30 minutes, and having multitasking crews.

What is its baggage policy? Business class fare includes 20kg of carry-on baggage and 30kg of checked baggage, while the starter fare does not include checked baggage. Passengers can however, purchase check-in baggage. At booking, 15kg costs ¥900 (US$11) and 20kg costs ¥1,000 (US$13), with each extra 5kg costing ¥500 (U$6) up to a maximum of 40kg. It costs ¥2,000 (US$26) to add 15kg of luggage at the airport (for more information on the baggage policies click here).

Other extra services: Passengers can choose where they would like to sit onboard for ¥250 (US$3) when booking, or ¥650 (US$8) at the airport. They can get a seat with extra leg room and 8 inches of pitch on A320 and A321 and an extra 18 inches on A330 for ¥850 (US$11) when booked online, or ¥1300 (US$13.58) at the airport.


When was it launched? June 5, 2012

Main hub: Singapore Changi Airport

Where does it currently fly? The airline launched with flights between Singapore and Sydney. Shortly after it begun flying between Singapore and the Gold Coast, then launched flights to Tianjin, and Bangkok. It began Singapore to Taipei flights September 18.

Any expansion plans? The airline plans to start daily flights to Tokyo via Taipei from October 29. It will also start a three-times weekly service between Singapore and the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang from November 27, with the return leg going via Qingdao.

How does the airline provide low fares? The basic fares include just the seat, with all other services including inflight entertainment, food, baggage, and insurance available at an extra fee. The airline also operates its B777 aircraft with a higher density of passengers, up to around 370.

What is its baggage policy? The FlyBag and FlyBagEat fares come with 15kg of check-in baggage, and ScootBiz business class 20kg. The basic Fly fare does not include checked baggage but you can purchase between 15kg and 40kg of it in intervals of 5kg. When booking flights less than five hours, 15kg of baggage is S$15 (US$12.20) and 30kg is S$30 (US$24). For flights of more than five hours, 15kg is S$35 (US$28) and it is S$55 (US$45) for 30kg (click here for a full list of prices). 

Other extra services: Choosing a seat on a flight of less than five hours costs S$5 (US$4) and S$7 (US$6) on a flight of more than five hours. Getting a seat at the front of the aircraft with extra legroom costs S$15 (US$12) and S$30 (US$24) on a flight of less and more than five hours respectively. A stretch seat, with additional legroom, costs S$33 (US$27) on flights under five hours and S$99 (US$81) on other flights.

Philippines Air Asia

When was it launched? March 28, 2012

Main hub: Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark

Where does it currently fly? Domestically, it flies from DMIA to Davao (Francisco Bangoy International Airport), Palawan (Puerto Princesa International Airport) and Kalibo International Airport. It launched international flights between Clark and Kuala Lumpur June 9, and from Clark to Hong Kong and Macau July 19. 

Any expansion plans? The airline plans to start flying from Clark to Singapore from December 15. A spokesperson for the airline said they are looking to launch other new routes in the future, as well as increase capacity, but they are not announcing any specifics at this time. The airline has a new Airbus A320 due for delivery by the end of the year.

How does the airline provide low fares? Like all the AirAsia subsidiaries, it seeks to keep aircraft flying as much as possible with short airport turnarounds. It does not provide free food and drink inflight, does not give any refunds on bookings, does not have a loyalty programme and is a ticket-less airline.

What is its baggage policy? Passengers can purchase 15-40kg of check-in baggage. If passengers buy 15kg of check-in luggage online, it costs between PHP300-700 (US$7.20-16.90) depending on the destination. 

Other extra services: For about PHP900 (US$21.74) passengers can be first to board and get a hot seat on rows 1, 12 and 14 which have extra legroom.


When was it launched? March 1, 2012

Main hub: Kansai International Airport Osaka

Where does it currently fly? The airline operates domestic flights between Osaka Kansai and the Japanese cities of Sapporo (Shin-Chitose), Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kagoshima. It also has international flights from Osaka Kansai to Seoul (Incheon) and Hong Kong.

Any expansion plans? The airline plans to start flights from Osaka Kansai to Taipei Taoyuan on October 16 and Okinawa Naha from October 18. Peach plans to receive its fifth aircraft by October, sixth by December and seventh by February.

How does the airline provide low fares? Peach offers low fares by charging extra for services such as check-in baggage, inflight meals, and seat selection. It keeps its operation costs low by reducing the time aircraft spend on the ground, by not using boarding bridges, and by having staff multitask. 

What is its baggage policy? Buying a Happy Peach Plus fare provides one piece of check-in baggage up to 20kg for free, or you can buy check-in luggage separately. Booking online, it costs ¥1,050 (US$13) to check in one piece of luggage under 20kg on a domestic flight, and ¥1,600 (US$20) on an international flight (to see a full list of baggage fees click here).

Other extra services: When booked online, seat selection costs ¥210 (US$2.67) on domestic flights, or ¥320 (US$4.06) on international flights. A seat with extra legroom costs ¥840 (US$10) on a domestic flight, or ¥1,280 (US$16) on an international flight.

Nicholas Olczak

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