AirAsia plans new routes to China and India


KUALA LUMPUR (XFNews) - Low-cost carrier AirAsia hopes to launch more flights to China and subsequently to India as part of itsplans to become an Asia-wide airline, group deputy chief executive Kamarudin Meranum said at the weekend.

 Southeast Asia's most profitable budget carrier is also looking at forming new joint-ventures in the region to boost revenue, 

"We continue to talk to various parties to explore the possibility of establishing joint-ventures," Kamarudin said, noting the firm was looking at potential tie-ups in the Philippines and countries in Indo-China.

"From our experiences in Thailand and Indonesia, we can set up joint-ventures fairly quickly.

"But it must fit into our strategic plan to make AirAsia become an Asian carrier and to provide easy and affordable access for people to travel in the region," he said.

The Malaysia-based AirAsia has already managed 49 pct-owned joint venture low-cost carriers in Thailand and Indonesia since 2004.

Kamarudin declined to state with which Indochina country -- Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam -- the carrier would establish a joint-venture.

"In any joint-ventures, we will try to retain as much stake as allowed by the law of the country without contravening the air services agreement," he said.

The AirAsia official also declined to comment on a report in January that the carrier had partnered with privately-owned Spring Airlines in hopes of tapping China's budget travel market.

Kamarudin said with the arrival of new Airbus 320 aircraft, AirAsia hoped to increase both flights and frequency to China and other destinations.

"Our Thai hub will cover China and may look at the possibility of going to the Indian subcontinent of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

"It is a natural plan of action to capture the leisure and business market in that region," he said.

Kamarudin said AirAsia Thailand hoped to mount daily flights from the Thai capital Bangkok to Xiamen in southeast China, up from four flights a week now.

"We want to have a minimum of one flight a day to all our destinations. From there we will increase the frequency," he said. Besides Xiamen, AirAsia flies to the southern Chinese territory of Macau.

But with the arrival of the A320s, airline officials said AirAsia would consider flying from Kuala Lumpur to China's southern cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen, which neighbours Hong Kong.

Kamarudin, however, said AirAsia now faced a shortage of aircraft but when more of the A320 planes arrive, "we will increase the frequency and routes."

Since last December, AirAsia has taken delivery of five of the 100 A320 aircraft it had ordered. By end of 2006, it will have 15 in service along with the Boeing 737-400s that would be slowly phased out.

AirAsia, which has welcomed the Malaysian government's domestic rationalisation plan, Friday said that it would hold talks with flag carrier Malaysia Airlines to acquire its 737-400 aircraft and staff.

AirAsia on Thursday secured approval to fly most of Malaysia's domestic routes.

Under the rationalisation programme, AirAsia would operate all secondary domestic services while also operating on perhaps the five-10 busiest routes with Malaysia Airlines.

The government has ordered both AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines to identify and workout the division of routes by March 27.

Malaysia Airlines has 39 737-400 aircraft which are primarily used for domestic and regional routes.

AirAsia was launched as a budget carrier in December 2001 with just two aircraft. It offers more than 100 domestic and international flights to Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

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