AirAsia, the low-cost airline based in Malaysia and also Asia’s biggest budget carrier, will start services to India from December 1, 2008.
“AirAsia plans to start flying to Trichy in Tamil Nadu, India, as a precursor to operations to 9 other locations in India,” Datuk Tony Fernandes, chief executive officer of AirAsia, told a news conference. “The carrier will begin ticket sales to Trichy at midnight on October 29, 2008, with the first flight scheduled for December 1, which is slated to be a daily service. The airline might add a second flight since the initial response has been overwhelming.”
Special inaugural fares will be as low as Rs 700 (Malaysian Ringgit 49) for a one-way flight. Normal ticket prices would be around Malaysian Ringgit 200 one-way.
AirAsia X, the long-haul, budget airline operated by AirAsia X Sdn. Bhd., franchises the brand name of AirAsia, which uses a common ticketing website, livery, uniforms, and management style with AirAsia. AirAsia X is also affiliated with Virgin Group, which assists in management, expertise, and infrastructure.
It may be noted that AirAsia, launched in December 2001 with just two aircraft, has grown to become Asia’s biggest low-cost carrier and has been imitated by various national carriers as well as other low-fare airlines.
According to reports in the media, the other destinations that AirAsia is considering in India include Chennai, Madurai and Kochi. At the same time, the long-haul, low-cost airline AirAsiaX will fly to New Delhi, Bombay, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Calcutta.
AirAsia is reportedly anticipating a big growth in Indian tourist arrivals and is, therefore, considering spending Malaysian Ringgit 7 million ($2 million, or Rs 97 million) for new infrastructure in Thiruchi.
AirAsia’s CEO told journalists: “The carrier will use 10 Airbus A320 single-aisle planes for its flights to India, and is optimistic of ferrying a load factor of 90% for its first flight. AirAsiaX will expand its routes to Japan, South Korea, Europe and the United States.”
“The airline,” he added, “has been bullish despite a global economic slowdown, but its net profit nosedived by 95% in the second quarter of 2008 because of high fuel costs and foreign exchange losses. I believe that you have to be innovative. While other airlines are cutting back, we are expanding and can take up their slack. Maybe some of the population in India cannot afford to fly with us, but there are many more who can, and this is the market we are after.”
AirAsia had said in September 2008 that it was “exploring various options” following reports that it may soon be privatised in view of the global economic slowdown.
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