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AirAsia X - Budget Airline in Asia, Australia

A irAsia X is a medium and long-haul "no frills" airline based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Let's take a closer look at this carrier which is a subsidiary to budget airline AirAsia...

AirAsia X launched flights back in 2007 flying initially between Kuala Lumpur and Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia.

In the following years it expanded its route network and served the likes of London (UK), Paris (France), Christchurch (New Zealand), several cities in Australia and around the region (India, China, Japan, Iran, UAE).

At first, AirAsia X was able to offer some very cheap fares - however no airline has been able to sustain the budget long-haul concept. With elevated oil prices, high departure taxes, the Emissions Trading Scheme in Europe and lower demand amid a financial crisis, AirAsia X has pulled some of its routes to focus on mid-haul regional flights. Its key markets are now Australia, China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

AirAsia X
Background/Key Facts
Established
2007
Parent Company
AirAsia Berhad (MYX: 5099)
Shareholders
Aero Ventures Sdn Bhd - 52%, AirAsia Bhd - 16%, Orix Corp - 11%, Manara Consortium - 11%, Corvina Holdings (Virgin Group) - 10%
First Route
Kuala Lumpur (KUL) - Gold Coast (OOL) on 2nd November 2007
IATA Flight Code
D7
Base
Kuala Lumpur (KUL), Malaysia
Aircraft Fleet
9 Airbus A330-300s
2 Airbus A340-300s (leased and being phased out)
Aircraft Orders
3 Airbus A330-200 (HGW High Gross Weight)
16 Airbus A330-300s
10+5 Airbus A350-900s (scheduled from 2017)
Passenger Numbers (2011)
2.5 million (AirAsia X)
29.9 million (AirAsia group total)
Load Factor (2011)
80.1%
Revenue (2011)
RM 1.9 billion
Loyalty Program
"BIG" (AirAsia)

airasia x

Photo credit: Flickr: sabih.ahmed under Creative Commons license

AirAsia X Route Network - AirAsia X has trimmed its route network to focus on mid-haul flights (under 9 hours) around Asia and Australia. Flights to UK, France, New Zealand, India and Iran have been pulled. Future possible destinations could be Adelaide, Australia; Istanbul, Turkey; Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - however these new routes depend on gaining regulatory approval, sales potential and airport costs. Note, parent company AirAsia has a substantial short-haul network around south-east Asia.

Route from KUL
Airport Code
Started
Frequency*
Gold Coast, Australia
OOL
Nov 2007
1x daily
Perth, Australia
PER
Nov 2008
9x weekly
Melbourne, Australia
MEL
Nov 2008
2x daily
Sydney, Australia
SYD
Apr 2012
1x daily
Hangzhou, China
HGH
Feb 2008
1x daily
Tianjin, China
TSN
Apr 2009
5x weekly
Chengdu, China
CTU
Oct 2009
4x weekly
Beijing, China
PEK
Jun 2012
1x daily
Shanghai, China
PVG
Feb 2013
1x daily
Taipei, Taiwan
TPE
Jul 2009
11x weekly
Kathmandu, Nepal
KTM
Jul 2012
3x weekly
Seoul, Korea
ICN
Nov 2010
1x daily
Tokyo Haneda, Japan
HND
Dec 2010
1x daily
Osaka, Japan
KIX
Nov 2011
4x weekly
  
*subject to change
Cancelled Routes
Airport Code
Started
Ended
Abu Dhabi, UAE
AUH
Nov 2008
Feb 2010
London Stansted, UK
STN
Mar 2009
Oct 2011
London Gatwick, UK
LGW
Oct 2011
Mar 2012
Mumbai, India
BOM
May 2010
Mar 2012
New Delhi, India
DEL
Aug 2010
Mar 2012
Paris Orly, France
ORY
Feb 2011
Mar 2012
Christchurch, New Zealand
CHC
Apr 2011
May 2012
Tehran, Iran
IKA
Sep 2010
Oct 2012

AirAsia X Seating Configuration - AirAsiaX has 2 classes of travel: standard economy class (31" pitch, 16.5" width) and Premium class (angled lie-flat seats of 60" pitch, 77" fully reclined, 20" width).

On the Airbus A330, the 18 Premium seats have a 2-2-2 configuration. In economy the 365 seats are in a 3-3-3 config - this is 1 seat more than the usual 2-4-2 A330 layout which means the aisles are narrower and the cabin may feel more claustrophobic to some passengers.

AirAsia X's new Airbus A330-200 HGW (High Gross Weight) aircraft have 24 Premium seats and 264 economy seats.

AirAsia X airfares - Air Asia X started life as a low cost operator offering very cheap long-haul flights between UK, Malaysia and Australia. Special "promo" fares were often as low as £99 one way (London to KUL) or AUD99 (Australia to KUL) - although AirAsia has always charged for optional extras such as assigned seating, onboard meals and checked luggage.

Over the years Air Asia X's prices have been creeping up, sometimes to the levels of the major carriers - hence the pulling of the unprofitable long-haul routes. Today, AirAsia X still offers some competitive "promo" fares - these should be booked during sales many months in advance.

One interesting development is AirAsia X's partnership with OptionTown - they offer economy passengers the chance to upgrade to Premium for a reasonable fee. They have also introduced an Empty Seat Option to guarantee an adjacent empty seat for a nominal charge and some other flexible travel options.

Note AirAsia has a FLY-THRU facility available for some connecting routes through Kuala Lumpur - where baggage is checked through to the final destination and passengers can transfer without having to clear Malaysian immigration.

AirAsia Loyalty Program - With over 270,000 members, the BIG program earns 1 BIG point (known as Biggies) per MYR4 spend on AirAsia flights and per MYR2 spend on AirAsia ancillary fees and other partners. Redemption levels for AirAsia X flights vary according to demand - so a Kuala Lumpur-Melbourne flight can range from anything between 24,500 to 127,500 Biggies - taxes are extra.

AirAsia Credit Cards - AirAsia offers a number of affiliated airline credit cards to Malaysian, Thai and Indonesian residents. In Malaysia there is the AirAsia-Citibank Credit Card and AirAsia-Citibank Gold Card - these Mastercard cards earn points which can be transferred to Biggies.

In Thailand there is the AirAsia-KBank Classic Visa Credit Card and Platinum Visa Credit Card. In Indonesia there is the HSBC AirAsia Classic Visa Card and Gold Visa Card. All the cards have a variety of travel rewards including priority booking during AirAsia promo sales.

Air Asia X competitors - AirAsia is now working more closely with Malaysia Airlines (MH) after an equity swap deal and another reason why AirAsia X pulled its European routes, particularly with MH introducing the Airbus A380 on London-KUL flights. Qantas subsidiary Jetstar (based in Australia and New Zealand) and Jetstar Asia (based in Singapore) have a significant presence around the region. It is due to receive the first of 15 Boeing 787s from 2012.

Singapore Airlines has also set up a budget mid-haul/long-haul airline called Scoot, targeting Australia and China using Boeing 777s. The first routes are Singapore-Sydney and Singapore-Gold Coast.

We shall see if sometime in the future Jetstar or Scoot decide to fly between Asia and Europe now that AirAsia X (and before them Oasis Hong Kong Airlines) have pulled out of that market. The budget long-haul market for flights over 9-10 hours remains a challenge for airlines...

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