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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 Japan and the Philippines. 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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Myanmar has seen a large influx of low-cost carrier capacity over the last 18 months as the two longstanding LCC players in the market, AirAsia and Jetstar, have expanded, while three LCCs have entered. LCC traffic in Myanmar’s international market grew by 70% in 2013 as the penetration rate increased from 20% to 26%.
But the expansion has come at a cost as LCC load factors in Myanmar’s two largest international markets, Thailand and Singapore, have tumbled as competition has intensified. The average LCC international load factor in Myanmar was only 63% in 2013.
Market conditions should eventually improve as demand catches up with supply. But consolidation and/or capacity cuts are likely in the near term.
Thai AirAsia is planning more rapid expansion in 2014 despite the challenging market conditions in Thailand. The carrier aims to grow passenger traffic by 27% in 2014 to 13.3 million as eight A320s are added to its fleet for a total of 43 aircraft.
Thai AirAsia plans to continue growing in both the domestic and international markets with a combination of new routes and additional frequencies. The domestic expansion comes amid increasing competition while the international market expansion comes despite sagging demand due to the civil unrest in Bangkok.
Among all the existing AirAsia short-haul affiliates, Thai AirAsia is pursuing the fastest growth in 2014 and is alone in opting against slowing down fleet expansion. The decision to continue with rapid expansion is strategic as AirAsia seeks to maintain its leading position in Thailand’s low-cost sector as competition increases.
At CAPA's Airlines in Transition 2014 conference in Dublin, the opening session included high profile industry figures debating a key area of airline industry transformation (or not): national ownership controls. The panel included IAG CEO Willie Walsh, Norwegian Air Shuttle CEO Bjorn Kjos, AirAsia co-founder and Dublin Aerospace Chairman Conor McCarthy, European Commission Director Aviation and International Transport Policy Matthew Baldwin and Irish Aviation Authority CEO Eamonn Brenan.
John Byerly, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation at the US State Department and a major negotiator in the EU-US Open Skies agreement, set the context for the discussion with a review of the "archaic" restrictions on foreign ownership and control. All panellists, airline executives and regulators alike, agreed that the current system is "stupid".
The new wave of low-cost carriers in Japan are entering their third year of operations, with Peach Aviation passing the milestone in Mar-2014 and Jetstar Japan doing so in Jul-2014. Along with AirAsia Japan (launched in Aug-2012 and re-launched in Dec-2013 as Vanilla Air) and a number of preceding LCCs, they are not only delivering on Japan's objective to raise passenger figures but are seeing LCCs become a serious force in Japan. In the last nine months of 2013 LCCs carried 17% of passengers in Japan's domestic market while for the first three months of 2014 they offer 24% – nearly one quarter – of available seat capacity, according to OAG.
The three new LCCs – Peach, Jetstar and Vanilla – carried 6% of traffic. While depressed from the AirAsia/Vanilla switch, it marks a start for the first carriers to eliminate all frills, unlike predecessors such as Skymark, which alone carried 7% of traffic. The adoption to LCCs in Japan is slow, and there were some early painful lessons, but growth is near-guaranteed. Jetstar Japan added nearly as many seats as JAL while Peach added nearly as many seats as ANA. Meanwhile ANA and JAL project long-term decreases in Japan's domestic market. Further, Jun-2014 sees the launch of Spring Airlines Japan with domestic flights and in the future international services, mainly to China. This is the first (but will not be the last) international JV for China's Spring Airlines. AirAsia is also looking to re-enter. However, five new LCCs plus three existing mean excessive market fragmentation.
Although it may challenge the epithet that airlines never die in Japan, consolidation is in order. But more importantly, until prevailing legacy attitudes are redirected towards supporting economic expansion goals, LCCs will continue to labour under unnecessary handicaps.
Southeast Asia’s low-cost carrier fleet is still projected to increase by nearly 20% in 2014 despite a recent spate of delivery deferrals and suspensions of expansion. The region’s LCC fleet also grew by about 20% in 2013, creating overcapacity in several Southeast Asian markets and leading to the current pressure on yields and load factors.
The AirAsia Group has made the right move in slowing down expansion by deferring deliveries and selling aircraft. Tigerair Mandala and Jetstar Asia also have decided to take at least a one-year hiatus from expanding their fleets. More Southeast Asian LCCs, including potentially the Lion Air Group, need to make similar adjustments for market conditions to improve.
Southeast Asia is still a market with huge opportunities for further LCC growth. But LCC capacity expansion has started to outstrip supply, perhaps necessitating a pause for breathing space.
Indonesia AirAsia slows expansion. Domestic share to suffer but international position to strengthen
Indonesia AirAsia has decided to significantly slow down expansion in 2014 as market conditions in the Indonesian market, particularly domestically, have become challenging. The carrier, which added eight A320s in 2013, had dropped plans to add two aircraft in 1H2014 and is also considering deferring some or all of the four deliveries initially slated for 2H2014.
Indonesia AirAsia is also planning to adjust its network to focus more on international services. The international market is more profitable as it is less impacted by the devaluation of the Indonesian rupiah. But cutting domestic capacity will result in a reduction in AirAsia’s already small share of Indonesia’s domestic market.
AirAsia still has a strong position and bright outlook in Indonesia’s international market. But 2014 will mark another setback in the group’s long-term strategy of securing a larger presence in Southeast Asia’s largest domestic market.