Friday, November 27, 2009

AirAsia to expand in Asia

23 November 2009

KOLKATA: AirAsia Bhd is gearing up for network expansion in India with more destinations after achieving a wide coverage in China.

The company currently has about 200 flights a week to seven cities in China.

AirAsia regional head of commercial, Kathleen Tan, said the budget carrier had been looking at the Indian market for a long time and that it took a while to go there due to a lot of documentation issues.

“There is a lot of demand for flights between India and Kuala Lumpur. The expansion of the Indian routes will help open up the tourism industry in both countries and stimulate the labour market as well,” she told reporters in Kolkata last Friday at an event to commemorate the inaugural KL-Kolkata flight.

From left: Sanja Budhia, Kathleen Tan, Manabendra Mukherjee and Salman Ahmad lighting a diya, or oil lamp

Present at the event were Consul of Malaysia to India Sanjay Budhia, Tourism Minister of West Bengal Manabendra Mukherjee and Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board deputy director for international marketing division covering South Asia, West Asia and Africa, Salman Ahmad.

Tan said the airline was looking to serve Bangalore and Hyderabad in India from KL next year and its associate AirAsia X would look to serve Mumbai and New Delhi.

“We have a hub in Bangkok within our network and we are planning to do the Bangkok-Kolkata, Phuket-Kolkata as well as Bangkok-Mumbai and Bangkok-Delhi routes,” she said.

Following the start of service to Trichy last year, AirAsia launched three new routes from KL to Kolkata, Kochi and Trivandrum which opened for ticket sales on Oct 15, 2009.

Kolkata is recognised as one of four major metropolises in India along with New Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai.

The city in West Bengal is home to renowned personalities like Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, philosopher Ramakrishna and film director Satyajit Ray.

Kolkata is a haven for food lovers and is well connected to many Indian cities as a majority of domestic airlines have direct services to and from Kolkata.

Tan said Kolkata was one of the busiest cities in India and there was demand for the Kolkata-KL route as it had not been served from KL directly in the last few years.

“We have sold over 30,000 seats as of today (Friday) for the new route. It is a significant achievement for this market,” she said, adding that the airline targeted various segments for this route, including those travelling for business, holiday or religious purposes.

AirAsia is confident the route will provide a boost for tourism and stimulate the economies of India and Malaysia.

Furthermore, the route provides a direct connection between West Bengal and Malaysia via the KL hub, which in itself is a gateway to many destinations across Asia, the UK and the Middle East.

“With Kolkata added to our extensive network, AirAsia is unlocking the potential of international air travel from KL to eastern India and its surrounding areas. We are thrilled to be serving Kolkata direct, a huge market that no other airline is serving direct,” Tan said.

For all the flights to India, AirAsia uhses the Airbus A320.



KUALA LUMPUR: Budget carrier AirAsia said Friday its net profit totaled 130 million ringgit ($38.4 million) in the third quarter, buoyed by rising passenger numbers and income from add-on services.

AirAsia's profit for the quarter through September marked a turnaround from a 466 million ringgit ($137 million) net loss in the same three months of last year.

Revenue for the quarter grew 4 percent to 740 million ringgit ($218.5 million) on strong passenger growth.

Its combined Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai operations carried 5.9 million passengers, up 24 percent from a year eralier, AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes said in a statement.

"While the airline industry is facing arguably the most difficult environment in recent memory, AirAsia is determined to grow traffic, market share and profits," Fernandes said.

Ancillary income from new products and services offset the impact of lower fares, and jumped by 86 percent to 130 million ringgit ($38.4 million) in the latest quarter, the statement said.

AirAsia remains on course to carry 25 million passengers for the full year, Fernandes said. It also expects to launch new routes to Indian cities as well as boost flights to Singapore, China and various Southeast Asian countries.

The carrier has partially hedged its fuel requirements for the fourth quarter to mitigate the effect of oil price volatility and is assessing the possibility of further hedging beyond 2009, Fernandes said.


By LEE KIAN SEONG The Star


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