Bandar Seri Begawan - Local travel industry has welcomed a suggestion to added more AirAsia services here. At the moment AirAsia operates a daily service to Kuala Lumpur, which the local travel agents think is not enough.
Haji Thani bin Haji Hamid, proprietor, Tenaga Travel said, "Air Asia should operate also in the morning out of Brunei. The current evening daily flights are popular especially during school holidays. But there a need for more flights.
"Not only that, AirAsia should also look into return flights out of Brunei to Singapore and to other Asean capitals," he added.
Other travel industry members and members of the public also expressed similar sentiments.
Meanwhile Debbie Teo reports that Dato Tony Fernandes, group chief executive officer, AirAsia, as saying that AirAsia would like to increase flights to and from Brunei, however he said that he needs the assistance of the government of Brunei in order to do so.
"We would really like to do more, but it is up to the Brunei government to give us the freedom to do that. We've had hundreds and hundreds of letters asking for permission for us to do it, but I understand that it is always a tough battle for governments to protect national carriers," he said.
In an exclusive interview, Dato Fernandes told The Brunei Times that by allowing more flights by AirAsia, they wouldn't be taking away market share from Royal Brunei Airlines.
Dato Fernandes said that Malaysia has gone through a very successful experiment where Malaysia Airlines had record results recently and AirAsia also had record results and people have benefitted tremendously.
"Generally, the message of us is lost because the incumbent national carriers have a lot of power, so it's up to the people to try to do it. I mean, I'm trying to get a second flight serving Kuala Lumpur-Brunei route and we're having a very tough time."
He said that it is his hope and his vision to be able to expand the routes so that everyone will be able to travel. "It has been my vision from day one, and I want to take away the national boundaries, hence, we shouldn't be looking at getting route rights, we should be able to fly to Brunei whenever we want to. It would be great for Brunei and it would be great for Asean."
"Imagine seven years ago before AirAsia and imagine now, and imagine if we had the flexibility to do what we want. I don't think that Royal Brunei Airlines would lose out, there's a market for them," he said. "I don't think that going to fly Brunei-London, and there's a five-star market for them. They should move up the food chain," he said.
"We are helping the common man travel to Brunei," he said.
Asked about the boost in business due to the ongoing economic crisis, the group chief executive officer said that AirAsia has done well but that the airline product is "as good as most of the products of the full service carriers".
He added that he is not particularly worried should the economy start to improve or stay the same. "We're not hoping for the recession to carry on, just because we think we will do better. I think we will do better, down or up," he said.
In just under eight years, the budget-airline has gone from two planes to 80 aircraft, and has the widest network coverage of the Asean region than any other airlines.
He said that he has plans to push further and to get more flights and that it will be less of a challenge than when he started. "Honestly, it is more difficult to go from two planes to 80 than it is to go from 80 planes to 150 aircraft," he said.