Wednesday, February 11, 2009

‘Special fly price!’: You pay the fee and we’ll fly you for free

Champion of low-cost, long-haul fares AirAsia X continues its assault on budget air travel with the launch of its ‘You pay the fee and we’ll fly you for free*’ offer to Kuala Lumpur from all three of its Australian destinations.

If you pay the fee for taxes and charges, AirAsia X will pay for your fare and fly you one-way to Malaysia’s bustling capital for ‘fee’.

For passengers travelling one-way from the Gold Coast to Kuala Lumpur, pay only $71* for taxes and charges and AirAsia X will pay for your fare. From Melbourne and Perth to Kuala Lumpur, pay only $82* for taxes and charges.

AirAsia X’s one-way, ‘fly for fee’ deal is available until February 15, for travel between October 12, 2009 and January 31, 2010.

Discover Kuala Lumpur, the focal point of the new Malaysia with AirAsia X and experience the melting pot of cultures, cuisines and renowned architecture which seamlessly blends the city’s past with its present.

Use Kuala Lumpur as a gateway to discover the rest of Malaysia and beyond, with AirAsia’s network of ultra cheap flights to a myriad of must-see destinations. For a scenic adventure take an AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur to exciting destinations in Cambodia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, Laos or Vietnam.

For the ultimate coastal holiday grab your surfboard and fly with AirAsia to beach destinations in Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand. To travel off the beaten track, Asia has plenty of breathtaking locations for an adventure filled vacation including Medan and Solo in Indonesia and Miri and Kuching in Malaysia.

If shopping is high on your list of things to do, take a trip to Bangkok or visit the amazing shopping malls in Shenzhen. And last but not least, test your golfing skills on international courses in destinations throughout Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand.

Special deals from AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur to some of these great destinations include Siem Reap, Cambodia from $23; Hangzhou, China from $30; Langkawi, Malaysia from $13; Hanoi, Vietnam from $30; and Bangkok, Thailand from $21. Other great destinations and prices are available.

Visit AirAsia’s one-stop travel portal at, which offers a range of more than 25,000 three-star, five-star and boutique hotels to choose from. AirAsia offers a comprehensive online booking service that will save guests money for meals, luggage and on-flight extras.

For bookings or further information about AirAsia X’s ‘fly for fee’ deal between the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Perth to Kuala Lumpur visit

Low cost airline Air Asia adds flights to seven new destinations in 2009.

Malaysian budget airline, Air Asia, is to inaugurate seven new services during the course of 2009 according to CEO Tony Fernandes. Six new routes will open from Kuala Lumpur to airports in China namely Tianjin, Chendu, Xian, and Chongquin. Tianjin is only 30 mins from Beijing and offers a good low cost alternative to the full service airlines that use the main Beijing International airport. Xian is the gateway to all things Terracotta Warriers etc. Dhaka in Bangladesh will see Air Asia’s arrival in March and Taipei and Kaoshing in Taiwan make up the full set.
To be able to cope with these additional flights Air Asia will be taking delivery of 20 more new Airbus A320’s of which six will go to the airlines long haul sister airline Air Asia X.
The budget airline is also changing it’s seating policy. In an effort to get away from the onboard "bun fight" as passengers clamour for their desired seat Air Asia has assigned seats that can be booked in advance. So called "hot seats" are in the front five rows and the two rows nearest the overwing emergency exits where, in total, 42 pre bookable seats are available.
Customers wanting pre seat assignment, but nit the hot seats, can opt to book a "standard seat" in the remainder of the aircraft. Those passengers who don’t pre book get whats left!!
This of course does come at extra cost with hot seats costing the huge amount 250 baht each way (appx £5.00!!!) and the standard seats 150 bhat-about £3.00. Now that really does have to be some of the best value around if specific seating is important to you. Hot Seat passengers also benefit from Xpress Boarding of the aircraft ahead of other customers.

AirAsia offers 500,000 free tickets from today

10 Feb 2009

AirAsia is offering 500,000 free seats to dozens of its destinations in Southeast Asia, China and Australia.

“This campaign is an important impetus to boost tourist numbers and spread the economic benefits brought on by tourism,” said its regional head of commercial, Kathleen Tan, in a statement today.

The latest promotion gives away free seats to holiday destinations Bali, Bangkok, the Gold Coast, Haikou, Hangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kota Kinabalu, Langkawi, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Melbourne, Perth, Phuket, Shenzhen, Siem Reap, Singapore, Yogyakarta and many more other destinations.

“Our 500,000 regional free seats campaign is an important impetus to boost tourist numbers and spread the economic benefits brought on by tourism. We continue our role as the chief campaigner for tourism in this part of the world,” she said in a statement today.

“This should speed up development of tourism and transportation infrastructure here,” Tan said.
AirAsia, which operates over 108 routes to cities in all 10 Asean countries, China, India and Australia, has played a leading role in the growth of tourism in the region, having carried over 55 million passengers over six years.

According to the airline, its no fuel surcharge policy makes the free seats even more attractive to guests who only need to pay for airport tax and administration fee. Guests may also buy complete holiday packages at, where they may choose their holiday lodgings from over 50,000 hotels.

AirAsia To Start Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur Flights In March

09 Feb 2009

Dhaka, Bangladesh (AHN) - AirAsia, a Malaysian low cost carrier, is going to launch flight operations on a Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur-Dhaka route beginning March 12.

The airline is offering fares from as low as $29 USD for Dhaka-Kuala Lumpur one-way ticket.

"The exclusive offer will be available for those who have credit cards and online facility," Chief Executive Officer of The Dahmashi Tours and Travels Noman Chowdhury disclosed it at a press conference in the capital, Dhaka on Tuesday.

The Dahmashi Tours and Travels has been awarded the General Sales Agent (GSA) of AirAsia in Bangladesh for dealing with ticketing and organizing the journey from the country.

The passengers will be able to book their tickets from Monday (February 9) through the official website of the airline. The airline authority will carry passengers by its airbus A320 aircraft, which has 180 seats.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A League Of Our Own

07 Feb 2009

Will basketball flourish in a region whose population is crazy over football? Or maybe it’s just about branding and marketing.

In clay, mud or cement, a basketball court is a permanent fixture in the Philippines. The streets also serve as alternative courts when there are no cars passing and politicians score points when they donate a basketball court or sponsor a match.

It is no small wonder why Filipinos dominate the game in Southeast Asia. They love to say they inherited this game from their American colonisers. But the Americans and Europeans would often mock them—Filipinos are relatively short people to play a game designed for tall people. Probably the height factor is the reason why basketball has not flourished much around Southeast Asia. We’d rather be good at sports that do not give emphasis on height like badminton, boxing or sepak takraw.

Now, here comes a guy who doesn’t even know the difference between a three-point and a two-point shot, who only played hoops once and who jokes that he looks like a basketball himself, singing all praises about the future of basketball in Southeast Asia. Are you kidding us?

"The league will initially consist of eight teams that will play on a home and away basis, leading to a knock-out, playoff round."

But Tony Fernandes, the man who only played basketball once, is not joking when he says he can do something and will make it happen. His company AirAsia, the region’s biggest budget airline, is a testament that impossible things happen everyday. Asia’s Cinderella man may not be a sports buff but he knows where and how to put his money and make more money. He is so convinced that in two years, he will get a return of investment and will make basketball the biggest game in Southeast Asia.

So what’s the game plan?

Funding, high-quality teams, advertisement support and a fan base that will follow the games wherever are some factors to consider. Even popular games in Southeast Asia like football and badminton are not huge earners and the players are still not considered rich, say, by NBA standards.

During the launch of the Asean Basketball League (ABL), Fernandes—whose businesses range from airlines to hotels to financial services to sports management—explains why he has a strong belief in the success of basketball in the region.

“The best way of uniting Asean is through sports... Basketball can reach across all countries and can be a very popular sport,” he says.

“It has been a long time dream of mine to unite Asean under a single banner of sports and with the ABL, I feel it will bring a new era on how sports is organised and marketed in this region... It would be great to create something closer to home... We will make Asean a much smaller place,” he says.

ABL, which Fernandes chairs, has the support of the Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) and the International Basketball Federation FIBA. Teams will consist of international players from the United States, Australia, Europe and Asean member nations—Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.

It will be made up of professional franchise teams hosted by cities in each Asean member country. The teams will be privately owned, with each franchise holder resorting to its own revenue streams to generate fund.

The league will initially consist of eight teams that will play on a home and away basis, leading to a knock-out, playoff round. It is scheduled to start in Sept 2009, with games to be held until Feb 2010.

Choosing franchisees in each country is quite tricky. ABL has to make sure that the applicant has a strong financial backing with the ability to attract advertisers and commitment to tap local talents. ABL has stressed the development of local talents to ensure the sustainability of the game.

“It’s really about local stuff.” says Fernandes.

Bob Elphinston of FIBA agrees. “We really do not need foreigners to ensure the success of the game... As long as the game is exciting and well presented, the public will come.”

Fernandes compares this new venture to the music industry.

“When I started in the music business, we were only selling American and English music so I suggested to invest in local talents. Who wants to buy a Malay or Indonesian artist when you have Madonna, etc? But now, 60% is local,” he recalls.

ABL will put a restriction to only two Asean and two non-Asean imports for each team. To provide balance, there will be a salary cap for each player and teams will be strictly monitored if they try to circumvent the rules.

Fernandes and his friends from FIBA and Seaba may be convinced that the time is ripe to launch the regional league but the skeptics are doubtful especially when the world is entering the worst crisis since the Great Depression.

“There is skepticism out there but if you don’t try, you never know.”

“This is the best time to launch a league. People need entertainment. People need to be together for two-and-a-half hours of basketball entertainment. The best time to advertise is during economic crisis because you know who your friends are,” Fernandes says, adding that he has tripled AirAsia’s advertising in response to the economic crisis.

Asean provides a regional platform of a population base of 600 million people that always crave for new forms of entertainment.

Being a businessman that he is, Fernandes believes they have the right product to market.“We provide a viable platform, a wonderful platform for sports, a wonderful time for companies to build an Asean brand.”

Maybe it’s gut feel, experience and the willingness to take a risk, Fernandes believes in dreaming big. “Not in a million years would I imagine that I would be chairman of a basketball league. But then not in a million years would I imagine I would own an airline.”

With this, he has committed to shed some sweat, build a basketball court at his house and play the hoops, seriously.

Low-cost airline has no space for frills

06 Feb 2009

Turning around an airline with a $40 milion debt and just two planes isn't the easiest of jobs. In seven years, Tony Fernandes, CEO, AirAsia, has made this bankrupt Malaysian airline into the fastest-growing low cost carrier( LCC) in Asia, serving 110 routes with 72 A-320s. He telss he now has his eyes set on India:

What is AirAsia's success mantra?

Discipline, focus and a fierce determination to change things. We marketed our brand well and sell everything at the lowest cost good seats, food, extra luggage space. We used to sponsor Manchester United and now, referees from England and the Williams F1 team. And from this month, we'll be offering half-a-million free tickets. We have the highest utilisation each plane does an average of eight flights daily and flies about 14 hours. We do new routes mainly, like Kuala Lumpur-Tiruchy, which was started on December 1, 2008.

Why Kuala Lumpur-Tiruchy? Was a market survey done?

I've never done a market survey. All one needs is a city of 50,000 people to make a new route work. Some 19 million people flew my airline in 2008. I send teams to supermarkets, airports, etc, and get a feel of what people want. And i have never gone wrong. The Tiruchy route, our first in India, happened while i was attending a funeral and someone told me that all Malaysians were flying to Tiruchy. Today, it has 94 per cent occupancy. We'll fly to Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai next. In a country of over a billion people, if i can't fill up an A-320, i shouldn't be in this business.

Are low-cost carriers in India really low-cost?

No, they aren't. Even Air Deccan, which came closest to it, had a variety of planes turboprops, ATRs, A-320s. That means separate crew, training, seating plans, maintenance, etc. This complicates matters and translates into more costs. AirAsia, for example, has only A-320s. Simplicity is the mantra for an LCC's success. Also, most LCCs are owned by rich men, who want to like it themselves, with some add-ons. The LCC model is a basic and good product, with no space for frills. AirAsia's motto `Now everyone can fly', which i got while taking a shower, is as simple as it can get.

We've an efficient and fit cabin crew who clean the plane themselves, saving time. They're also given incentives like better salaries than the national carrier, and 5 to 10 per cent commission on whatever they sell.

Will AirAsia want to buy a stake in a domestic carrier in India? Which would it be?

Yes, i would be interested. My father was an Indian citizen and i would love to be in India. But i don't want to plan till regulations permit.

Terminal declined

05 Feb 2009
Less a setback for a budget airline than a blow to the government’s credibility

Looking for a cheap parking place

IT WAS billed as the people’s airport, a M$1.6 billion ($440m) international gateway to be owned and operated by AirAsia, Malaysia’s ambitious budget airline. Private land had been found, close to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). Malaysia’s cabinet had given its approval. But a chorus of whines from politicians, pundits and the state company that owns KLIA (and knows a competitor when it sees one) have clipped AirAsia’s wings. The government now insists the carrier must stay at KLIA, which has promised to build it a new terminal. Sime Darby, the oil-palm company that owns the land, has been forced to drop its plans. As policy flip-flops go, this takes some beating.

What in effect killed AirAsia’s plans was the intervention on January 30th of Najib Razak, the deputy prime minister. The fiasco has exposed the wavering grip on power of Abdullah Badawi, the lame-duck prime minister, who is to be succeeded by Mr Najib in March. Mr Najib is a protégé of Mahathir Mohamad, prime minister for 22 years until 2003, who had been among the shrillest critics of the project.

AirAsia, however, may yet have the last laugh. So far, its trajectory has been relentlessly upward. It launched in 2002 with two leased planes. It currently has 76 aircraft, including the first batch of 25 Airbus A330s on order for AirAsia X, its long-haul subsidiary. Last year it carried 19m passengers within Asia and the Pacific. Of these, around 10m shuffled through KLIA’s satellite low-cost carrier terminal, a converted cargo facility opened in 2005. AirAsia forecast that by 2011 it would exceed the terminal’s capacity of 15m passengers. It is already short of parking bays for its aircraft, and was looking for an alternative.

Tony Fernandes, the bullish chief executive, says that his dream of a new airport was born out of frustration with Malaysia Airports, KLIA’s operator, which is controlled by Khazanah Nasional, the government’s investment fund, as is Malaysia Airlines, the national flag-carrier. Last year Mr Fernandes wrote on his company website that a new airport by 2011 was a matter of life or death for AirAsia. Opponents of the project argued that a rival airport could be the kiss of death for KLIA, which opened in 1998, caters for around 25m passengers a year and aspires to be a regional hub. A private airport would inevitably require public infrastructure spending. Moreover, Malaysia’s capital is already served by three airports. To build a fourth seems a mite extravagant.

Critics say that a stronger government would have made a decision one way or the other and stuck to it. As it is, taking the project away from a successful private firm, AirAsia, and giving it to a government-owned monopoly hardly seems reason for cheer. AirAsia has delivered huge benefits to Malaysia by bringing in foreign tourists, creating jobs and cutting the cost of air travel. It aims to carry 60m passengers by 2013. It is already Malaysia Airport’s biggest customer. Yet instead of rolling out the red carpet for it, the authorities seem to be trying to pull the rug out from under it.

AirAsia did, however, win concessions from Mr Najib. Officials say these include a say in the design, cost and operation of the planned new terminal. Mr Fernandes declined to comment. Like all budget carriers, AirAsia wants to pare costs, which is why it refuses to berth its planes at KLIA’s expensive glass-and-steel terminal. A properly equipped terminal with a low service charge would do nicely. Indeed, access to such a terminal may have been AirAsia’s intention all along. Its threat to build a private airport managed to put some pepper on the tail of policymakers, says Peter Harbison, of the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation in Sydney. A bit drastic, but effective. Last year Malaysia Airports reportedly told AirAsia it would take four years to build a terminal. The new deadline is 2011. Amazing what competition can do.

AirAsia to launch Jakarta-Singapore and Bali-Singapore service


As early as next month low-cost carrier Indonesia AirAsia will be launching services from Jakarta to Singapore and Bali to Singapore, marking a major regulatory break-through between Indonesia and Singapore.

"We just received the regulatory approval from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and we are trying to start from next month," Indonesia AirAsia marketing manager Herjanto Widjaja says from Jakarta.

He says the airline plans to launch daily services from Jakarta to Singapore and Bali to Singapore and soon after that launch a Yogyakarta-Singapore service.

This is significant because AirAsia has for years wanted to operate services on high traffic routes between Indonesia and Singapore but the CAAS has blocked it because of an impasse between the Indonesian and Singapore regulator.

In January 2005 Indonesia AirAsia, which was then called AWAIR, tried to launch a Jakarta-Singapore service but the CAAS blocked it just prior to launch.

It was later revealed that the CAAS' decision was part of a 'tit for tat' dispute between the CAAS and the Indonesian civil aviation authority.

The Indonesian side had blocked Singapore low-cost carriers from operating on the high-traffic routes between Singapore and Indonesia - in an effort to protect incumbent carriers such as national airline Garuda Indonesia - so the Singapore side responded likewise.

But since 2005, southeast Asian countries have increasingly been liberalising air services, paving the way for low-cost carriers to expand.

Herjanto at Indonesia AirAsia says the airline currently has five Airbus A320s and seven Boeing 737-300s and plans to add one more A320 in March or April and have a total of 10-12 A320s at year-end.

He says the airline is also working to launch a service from Bali to Perth in Australia but is still waiting on approval from the Australian regulator.

A spokeswoman in the Kuala Lumpur headquarters of AirAsia group confirms that the Indonesian carrier will launching services soon on the three routes.

She declines to comment further on this except to say AirAsia will be organising a media event in Singapore to announce the news.

In a separate development, the spokeswoman says AirAsia of Malaysia will be launching a daily service in March from Kuala Lumpur to Dhaka in Bangladesh using A320s.

Decision On Labu Airport After AirAsia-MAHB Talks

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 -- The government will make a decision on whether to build a low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) in Labu, Negeri Sembilan after AirAsia Bhd (AirAsia) and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) complete negotiations.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat said AirAsia and MAHB were now holding discussions to avoid overlapping functions.

"We do not wish to see any overlapping projects being brought up. Once the negotiations are over, the government will make a decision," he told reporters after chairing a meeting of MCA's presidential council at Wisma MCA here today.

"I find it surprising that people seem to focus only on Labu for the project and not the KL International Airport," he added.

On the subject of party hopping, Ong, who is also MCA president, stressed the party was firm in its principle of rejecting money politics.

"We will continue with our policy of practising openness. We remain receptive to admitting partyless individuals. He or she has the right to apply for admission into the party," he said.

On the meeting today which lasted some four hours, Ong said the council would be tabling a paper outlining the transformation direction for the party on March 1 in conjunction with MCA's 60th anniversary.

"The paper is based on feedback from the grassroots," he said.