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AirAsia is a low cost carrier based at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia. The carrier, which was formed out of Tune Air in 2002, is led by CEO Tony Fernandes and pioneered the cross-border joint venture in Asia, establishing Thai and Indonesian units with bases in Bangkok and Jakarta. The airline has also partnered with other airlines and investors to create ventures in the Philippines, India and Japan. AirAsia's extensive domestic and regional network includes services within Malaysia and to China, Southeast Asia and the Subcontinent.
Location of AirAsia main hub (Kuala Lumpur International Airport)
AirAsia share price
LCCs will continue to evolve into hybrids of the original core model. CAPA and OAG consider AirAsia fits the LCC profile and it is included in our reporting on this basis. Please note: when reporting for an airline is changed from or to LCC the historical data is not affected and it can lead to a distortion in the current reported data. Contact us if you have any queries.
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Malaysia Airline (MAS) is cutting capacity to Australia by over 40% in Aug-2015 as it drops Brisbane and reduces capacity to Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney. But Australia remains an important market for MAS and the flag carrier will remain one of Australia’s 10 largest foreign airlines.
The reductions are sensible as for the most part they simply reverse earlier expansion that was overambitious and unsustainable. MAS does risk leaving an opening for competitors, particularly Malaysian rival AirAsia X, but in the current challenging phase of its history it cannot be worried about market share.
This is Part 1 in a series of reports on MAS capacity cuts and the potential impact on the Malaysian and broader Asian markets.
This report focuses on Australia, where the upcoming MAS cuts follow significant capacity reductions made in early 2015 by AirAsia X.
AirAsia has signed up as the anchor tenant for Changi Airport’s T4, a new hybrid terminal which is slated to open in 2017. AirAsia expects to reduce its operating costs significantly in Singapore as it moves from T1 to T4, giving it a better foundation to allow it potentially to resume expansion in Singapore.
AirAsia grew rapidly in Singapore from 2008 through 2013 but cut capacity in 2014 as market conditions became extremely challenging. Lower operating costs, driven by automation of passenger services, and incentive packages should make it easier for AirAsia to add capacity on some of its 15 existing routes from Singapore and launch new routes.
AirAsia could also potentially use T4 as a transit hub by introducing its Fly-Thru product in the Singapore market. Although it is not a hub or base Changi is AirAsia’s third largest airport. Only Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok have more AirAsia seats than Singapore.
Indonesia AirAsia (IAA) is planning further capacity and network adjustments as part of turnaround efforts. IAA is shrinking its fleet but should be able to reduce unit costs as aircraft utilisation rates increase and cost reduction initiatives are implemented.
Despite its recent struggles IAA remains an important component of the AirAsia Group group’s long-term strategy, particularly its international operation. The affiliate is also needed to feed new long-haul low-cost carrier Indonesia AirAsia X (IAAX).
IAA is expected to increase its focus on international operations, a sensible move given the challenges it has faced in Indonesia’s highly competitive domestic market. AirAsia can afford to live without being a significant player in the Indonesian domestic market and should instead try to leverage its leading position in the country’s relatively small but promising international market.
Puerto Princesa Airport could experience major growth as the Philippine island of Palawan emerges as a popular tourism destination. AirAsia is particularly keen to pursue major growth in Palawan and use Puerto Princesa as an international hub.
The small airport, which currently only handles domestic flights and international charters, has been operating well above capacity. But a major expansion project is expected to be completed by early 2017, providing a new terminal and international facilities.
Philippines AirAsia (PAA) plans to launch scheduled international flights from Puerto Princesa to China and potentially other international destinations including Malaysia. For now Philippine market leader Cebu Pacific has no plans for international operations at Puerto Princesa but could be swayed to relook at the market if PAA’s focus on Palawan proves successful.
Cebu Pacific, PAL, AirAsia plan Boracay expansion. Will new runway at Caticlan lead to overcapacity?
Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Philippines AirAsia are planning to pursue rapid expansion at Caticlan Airport in 2015 following the completion of a highly anticipated runway extension project. Caticlan is the closest airport to the popular Philippine resort island of Boracay but has seen limited growth over the years as it could only handle regional aircraft.
Caticlan is expected to see the launch of international flights from all three of the main airline groups in the Philippines as well as from some foreign carriers. Several of these flights will be transferred from Kalibo, an airport about 70km from Boracay that has seen rapid growth due to the constraints at Caticlan, which is only a 10min ferry trip from Boracay.
Traffic on Caticlan-Manila is also expected to grow as Cebu Pacific and PAL upgrade flights from turboprops to A320s and as AirAsia enters the market. Caticlan-Manila is already the 10th largest domestic route in the Philippines while Kalibo-Manila, which will almost certainly see a decline in traffic, is now the fourth largest.
The much-celebrated growth of Chinese tourism is not occurring evenly. An additional 3.8 million Chinese visitors travelled to core Northeast and Southeast Asia in 2014 compared to 2013, representing 19% growth. But this growth was concentrated exclusively in Northeast Asia while Southeast Asia actually contracted. This excludes Thailand, which is earning its "Teflon Thailand" reputation: after flat performance over much of 2014 due to political uncertainty, Chinese visitors have sprung back up to all time highs. Its neighbouring countries are far less fortunate. It is little wonder Korea, Thailand and Japan are the largest growth markets for Chinese airlines.
Despite weakness in Southeast Asia, foreign airlines are typically not planning to further reduce capacity. As one example, Singapore Airlines instead plans to link outbound China traffic with other markets, such as Australia.
Rapid growth within Northeast Asia now means that Chinese visitors have come to define tourism profiles: they accounted for 18% of all visitors to Japan in 2014, 43% to Korea and 40% to Taiwan. Such high shares become contentious locally – and risks that countries and airlines need to carefully manage.