AirAsia flies into three more South Indian cities

Travel News September 28th, 2009

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SEPANG, Sept 28 — AirAsia, Asia’s leading low cost airline, will fly to Kochi, Trivandrum and Kolkata come December, in a move to expand its network in India.

AsiaAsia Group’s Regional Head of Commercial Kathleen Tan said AirAsia was flying now to Tiruchirappalli and would spread its wings to other destinations in India this year.

“Last year we were very busy working in China and we are now extensively covered in China. At present, AirAsia flies to Chengdu, Guangzhou, Guilin, Haikou,  angzhou, Shenzhen and Tianjin in China.

“For the fourth quarter and next year, AirAsia will focus on building our network in India where there is huge demand,” she told Bernama in an interview  today in conjunction with AirAsia’s 48-hour sales.

The two-day promotion, offers a 20 per cent discount on fares to all destinations, excluding London and Thailand, for the travel period beginning today until Nov 30.

It covers all domestic and international destinations across 20 countries and over 130 routes.

Elaborating on the Indian sector, Tan said AirAsia was looking at tapping destinations like Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and AirAsia’s long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X, would look further at Mumbai and Delhi.

She said the Tiruchirappalli sector received overwhelming response from the population in Southern India who visited Kuala Lumpur and used it as a gateway to enter Southeast Asia.

On whether AsiaAsia was experiencing a dip in sales due to the economic downturn, Tan said AirAsia was not really affected due to the airline’s strategic commercial initiative to encourage people to travel.

“Because of the economic downturn, people are downgrading but corporate travellers still want to fly. AirAsia offered alternative solutions to get people to fly,” she said.

Tan said AirAsia’s market was huge covering the corporate, youth, retired, labour, family and student segments, adding that travelling during an economic crisis was best because of low prices offered by hotels.

“Because of our low cost model, the fares are affordable. We are changing the travel dynamics in Asia and we see more Malaysians flying now. In the past, people in East Malaysia will not come to Kuala Lumpur because of the expensive airfare,” she said.

Tan said the low cost carrier had opened up the flying experience as people not just travel for holidays but also for shopping or medical treatment.

She said AirAsia’s low cost model also boosted domestic tourism as the airline’s huge network enabled more Malaysians to take short domestic holidays to Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Miri and Tawau.

“We see 2009 as a challenging year for the aviation industry. We removed fuel surcharge and administration fees because we want to keep flying at affordable prices to stimulate travel.

“AirAsia today is more than just about low fares. We are selling romance,

lifestyle and holiday dreams,” Tan said.

Asked on AirAsia’s sales target for 2010, Tan said the economy was recovering and people are beginning to spend.

“The worst is over, so let’s see. Our bookings have been very encouraging,” said Tan, adding that AirAsia was still expanding despite the challenging economy.Saying that the low cost model was more matured and gaining acceptance, Tan added that online booking was no longer an issue because people were more tech-savvy now.

On AirAsia’s 48-hour sales campaign, Tan said the airline rarely offered such a promotion.

“The campaign will encourage people to travel because this year was a tough year due because of the H1N1 pandemic and challenging economic factors,” she explained.

Asked on the sales expectation, Tan said: “I would not be able to give figures, it depends on the response, but I think the response will be good. We are running into the peak travel period now and people want to start planning their holidays.”

During the two-day promotion, AirAsia will offer a 20 per cent discount on fares to all destinations, excluding London and Thailand, for the travel period beginning today until Nov 30.

It covers all domestic and international destinations across 20 countries and over 130 routes. — Bernama

AirAsia to fly to Tiruchi, India, twice daily from Sept 1

Travel News July 28th, 2009

air-asia-comPETALING JAYA: Good news for those who travel often to Tiruchirapalli as low-cost carrier AirAsia will be adding a second daily flight to the Indian district starting Sept 1.

To celebrate the introduction of the flight, AirAsia will be offering an all-in fare of RM129.00 for a travel period between Sept 1 this year and April 30 next year.

The booking period for the flight will be from Tuesday to Aug 2.

AirAsia Group commercial regional head Kathleen Tan said the airline was proud to be servicing an underserved route and opening up this market to the world.

“Tiruchirapalli is a highly popular and desired destination among Hindus in Malaysia as it has an abundance of temples, which are popular pilgrimage sites for Hindus,” she said in a statement on Monday.

She added that there was an increase in visiting travellers from the district in Tamil Nadu who were progressively using Kuala Lumpur as a connecting gateway to over 130 routes in South East Asia and beyond.

“In fact, within the first month of flying to India, we enjoyed a load factor of 100% on this route,” Tan said, adding that it was now timely to add a second frequency.

Tiruchirapalli was AirAsia’s first destination in India since its inception on Dec 1 last year.

AirAsia is also offering its guests free rooms in various destinations when they book at its partner hotels via goholiday.airasia.com.

For more information on flights and other promotions, visit www.airasia.com. – Source By YUEN MEIKENG / TheStar Online

Crossing the region’s skies freely

Travel News July 27th, 2009

SINGAPORE, July 27 — The impressive traffic growth that has come with the liberalisation of the Singapore-Malaysia air sector demonstrates the potential for a similar outcome throughout Asean, said Singapore’s Transport Ministry (MOT).

Following eight years of consecutive decline, traffic on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route grew 12 per cent last year, compared to the year before.

In December 2008 — one month after low-cost carriers started flying between Singapore and Sabah/Sarawak — air traffic between Singapore and Kuching doubled, compared to the same month in 2007.

The Singapore-Kota Kinabalu route grew 153 per cent during the same time, said MOT’s spokesman, adding: “The benefits of Singapore-Malaysia air services liberalisation are resoundingly clear.”

The expansion of air links between the two countries is part of a wider initiative towards Asean-wide free skies.

Last year, transport ministers of the 10 member states agreed on a long-term road map that will see the creation of an Asean Single Aviation Market by 2015.

When that happens, all carriers of member states will be able to criss-cross the region’s skies without any restrictions.

Despite the agreement, sceptics say it will be tough to realise the goal.

For Singapore, the position is very clear. The MOT spokesman said: “Singapore has always adopted a pro-liberalisation aviation policy. This is because increased air links will increase the flow of tourists, investments and trade to the benefit of both Singapore and its partner’s economy.” — The Straits Times

Singapore-Malaysia air route soaring

Travel News June 25th, 2009

KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 — Despite a grim outlook for the global aviation industry, airlines plying the Singapore-Malaysia route remain upbeat about their prospects.

While carriers around the world are suffering, the Singapore-Malaysia sector is enjoying a boom, with several airlines set to expand and increase flight frequencies from next month.

Air services between Malaysia and Singapore have hugely increased this year, and many more flights are due to be launched from Singapore to various towns in Malaysia.

You would forgive AirAsia — the airline running the most number of flights between the two countries — if it should start to feel nervous as yet another player, Malaysia Airlines subsidiary Firefly, enters the market next month.

The newcomer will be the seventh carrier to fly the much-coveted Singapore-Malaysia sector.

But AirAsia chief executive Datuk Tony Fernandes said he was confident about the airline’s staying power.

“I am not concerned about Firefly. It is not an arrogant statement,” he told The Straits Times in an interview.

He explained that both airlines are different and reach out to different target markets.

Fernandes said he believes that Firefly, which operates smaller turboprop aircraft and flies from Subang — nearer to the city centre than Sepang, site of Kuala Lumpur’s low-cost carrier terminal — is unlikely to offer airfares lower than AirAsia’s.

“We’re also different from other airlines (like Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines),” he added.

As AirAsia is a budget airline, he said, a passenger has to pay for meals, entertainment and even checking in a suitcase.

And those who have flown its long-haul carrier AirAsia X to Britain or Australia will know that the seats do not recline.

But these quirks do not seem to deter many passengers. Fernandes said passenger numbers have gone up and that plane loads average out at around 82 per cent.

Despite the industry’s glum fortunes regionally, AirAsia recorded net profits of RM203.2 million for the first quarter, compared with RM161.3 million a year earlier.

The opening up of the Singapore-Malaysia sector has been a boost. Fernandes estimates that 52 per cent of his passengers for the Singapore-KL route are Singaporeans.

And the Singapore-KL route is almost always nearly full, with an average load factor of more than 70 per cent, according to Kathleen Tan, AirAsia’s regional commercial head.

“The KL-Singapore route has been neglected for so long. It’s one of the few routes that has been in decline, so I think there’s enough for all of us,” said Fernandes, adding that the economic outlook for the route was “very good”.

He has never been wrong yet. He rose to fame after he turned around an ailing government- owned carrier into the success story that is now AirAsia.

Like AirAsia, its rival Tiger Airways also feels the sector is lucrative. It is keen to expand further later this year and is in discussions to launch new routes.

Its head of corporate communications Matt Hobbs said: “For the low-cost airlines, the market is certainly seeing growth and stable demand.”

Jetstar Asia also did not seem too worried about increased competition. Its Asia commercial head, Leslie Ng, said: “Our performance between Singapore and Malaysia remains strong.”

He cited a threefold increase in the number of passengers this month compared to the figure in the same period last year.

But analysts warned that a saturation point may soon be reached.

Azrul Azwar, a senior economist with Bank Islam, said that while the sector was still unaffected by the recession, he warned that it will reach a saturation point. “There could then be a price war, meaning more margin compression for carriers. But it will benefit passengers.”

Ng Sem Guan, aviation analyst with OSK Research, said: “The KL-Singapore route is a bit overcrowded. But new routes have the potential to grow, though it will take a while to mature.”

Both Air Asia and Air Asia X have removed administration fees on all flights.

Fernandes said yesterday this would lower fares and boost passenger volume.

The move would see a reduction of up to RM43 in ticket prices.

And amid the rosy outlook, at least for his airline, Fernandes promised one creature comfort for his long-haul passengers.

By December, seats in Air Asia X will be able to recline. — The Straits Times

Rajang river cruise set to wow tourists

Travel News June 15th, 2009

SIBU, June 15 – The Rajang, the country’s longest river, is set to become a tourist attraction when the Pandaw Luxury Cruise begins on June 30.

State urban development and tourism minister Datuk Micheal Manyin will officiate the ceremony.

A day after the launch, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said, a pioneer group of 60 tourists would begin an eight-day cruise along the river and its tributary, the Igan.

There will be three cruises each month and the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company which operates the service, reports it has a full schedule until March next year.

By then, Geikie said, more than 1,400 tourists from the USA, Australia and Europe would have visited the state’s central region comprising Sibu, Kapit, Sarikei and Mukah divisions. – Bernama