AirAsia X announced plans to offer regular fares between Australia and London for A$1,000 (plus taxes/charges) from late 2008. CEO, Azran Osman-Rani told Peanuts.aero that services from Kuala Lumpur (KL) to London Stansted would commence by the end of 2008 using two leased A340s.
Azran stated, “we are a point-to-point service, so a passenger would have to buy two tickets: Gold Coast-KL and KL-London. While we have promotional fares and generally lower fares for bookings far in advance, on average, we are looking at a combined price of A$1,000 for both round-trip tickets”.
“Both airports are very keen to have us and are willing to accommodate our low-cost requirements. However, we can only finalise the airport once we can confirm availability for dedicated aircraft for this route”, said Azran.
AirAsia X would like to commence with a daily service. “However, that would require us to secure two aircraft. If we had only one, we might only be able to do five flights a week”, he said.
Robert Milton, the CEO of Air Canada’s parent, has this week acquired a minority interest in AirAsia X, joining Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group with a 16% stake and other key foreign investors. Mr Milton's airline experience will be valuable for the airline and, says Azran, may help the airline secure aircraft to launch the UK service. “But it is no guarantee, since the widebody lease market is very tight at the moment”, said Azran. He added though that the weakening US economy and high fuel prices would mean some airlines would “let go of four-engine aircraft like the A340”.
Australia remains a core market for AirAsia X. Given the positive response to the Gold Coast service (four times weekly service launched in November 2007), the airline is planning to accelerate its roll-out in Australia with a second port as soon as its first of 25 new A330-300s arrives (estimated around October 2008). A third Australian city will be added when the third aircraft is available (in February or March 2009).
“We have had active discussions with Melbourne and remain interested to serve Victoria. However, other cities have put forth compelling proposals in conjunction with the respective state governments and tourism bodies, which we are seriously studying”, said Azran.
AirAsia X hopes to finalise its second Australian port by May 2008.