Wednesday, May 6, 2009

CEO: Fantastic earnings for AirAsia in first quarter

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia Bhd, South-East Asia’s biggest discount carrier, said earnings for the first quarter were fantastic after the company boosted passenger numbers.

Earnings for the second quarter were also looking good, chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes told Bloomberg Television in an interview yesterday. He didn’t elaborate.

AirAsia’s first-quarter passenger numbers surged 21% from a year earlier as more people chose low-fare airlines for their leisure trips amid job concerns and the economic recession.

That contrasts with lower traffic for bigger regional rivals, including Singapore Airlines Ltd, which is cutting routes and taking out planes.

The airline carried 3.15 million passengers in the first quarter, AirAsia said in an April 22 statement. The carrier, which has not reported first-quarter earnings, expected to fly 24 million people this year, Fernandes said on April 29.

The growth in traffic contrasts with declining passenger numbers worldwide. Global airline passenger traffic fell 11.1% last month compared with a year earlier, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Airlines already suffering from the global recession have been further hit as air travel declines due to the spread of swine flu virus, which has sickened at least 1,085 people in 21 countries.

Fernandes said the influenza A (H1N1) virus hadn’t dented AirAsia’s passenger numbers.

“There is no impact at all,” he said. “People are fairly sensible, they’ve seen that it’s really probably a storm in a tea cup. It’s business as usual, and bookings have been very strong.”

AirAsia expected to start a Hong Kong-Phuket route in June or July, Fernandes said. — Bloomberg

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