Friday, March 27, 2009

Malaysia’s Air Asia to fly Davao City-Kota Kinabalu route

26 March 2009

DAVAO CITY—Malaysia’s budget airlines is interested to service this city via Kota Kinabalu, a Filipino official of the BIMP-Eaga Business Council (BEBC) said.

Air Asia last year signified its interest to service the Davao City-Kota Kinabalu route and ask BEBC chairman Antonio Santos for help with its application in the Philippines.

“We have suggested to the airlines to fly three times a week for a start,” Santos said.

He said the airliner kept a low profile for a while “and may have probably studied its options in the middle of the global financial crisis.”

“But it has not canceled its interest to serve the route, and we would probably expect it to operate within the next three months,” Santos told a local business forum at the MediSpa Clinic in SM City here.

Kota Kinabalu is the capital of Sabah state, Malaysia, along the northwest coast of Borneo facing South China Sea. The industrial and commercial center of East Malaysia has a population of 579,304 and it is the largest urban center in Sabah, the sixth-largest in Malaysia.

It has become a crossroad in flights to known Asian destinations like Singapore and Hong Kong, and has been increasingly known for its tourism, attracting more than a million visitors annually.

Santos would not say why Air Asia has eyed Davao City for its expansion. He said the company extended the Davao City-Kota Kinabalu flight to serve longer destinations.

The new interest to service the route came as the two countries sped up bilateral transactions, including the adaption of uniform port tariff rates “in support of the incentive program for the development of air and sea transport services in the Philippines-Eaga [East Asean Growth Area].” Apart from the Philippines and Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei make up the BIMP-Eaga economic cooperation established in 1994.

Under the uniform port tariff, the two countries agreed that all ships from either country would have to pay $0.04 per gross tonnage in port dues and $0.02 as docking fee per day, or a fraction of it.

Santos said the agreement was contained in the memorandum circular of the Philippine Ports Authority “on Unilateral Application of BIMP-Eaga Uniform Port Tariff Rates for the Philippines and Malaysia.”

Aside from this bilateral agreement, the four countries also adopted incentive packages and, in the case of the Philippines, “the Civil Aeronautics Board issued a resolution granting 50-percent privileges on filing and regulatory fees for carriers operating within the designated points of BIMP-Eaga.”

The Bureau of Customs also revised its rates in paying overtime service of employees of seaports and airports under the BIMP-Eaga, Santos said.

The Philippines also revived the travel-tax exemptions to sea and air passengers from Mindanao and Palawan to any destination with the BIMP-Eaga.

“Business is brisk in the region despite the crisis. It is unlike in the Asian financial meltdown, when even the BIMP-Eaga was at a standstill,” he added.

Proximity takes off with AirAsia business

26 March 2009

Malaysia recently won the AirAsia Gold Coast project in a competitive pitch against Wunderman/Agenda Asia.

"AirAsia’s theme is ‘Now, everyone can fly’. With this new business, AirAsia is definitely helping everyone at Proximity and BBDO to fly across a newer, bolder sky," said BBDO/Proximity group chief executive Jennifer Chan (pix) said.

AirAsia had asked the agency to promote AirAsia X’s Gold Coast route to markets in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and China.

Chan said the pitch was a perfect opportunity for Proximity to present fresh, out-of-the-box ideas that take into account the nature of the client’s business.

"They loved our ideas so much that they took only our ideas to the Gold Coast tourism board for approval," she said.

"The client said we did a great job in demonstrating our understanding of their business and ability to take their digital campaigns to the next level."

Chan said the new business, coupled with the success of Proximity’s previous campaign for the airline, further solidifies AirAsia’s confidence in the agency.

Proximity Malaysia had previously developed the "AirAsia Travel Wish List" application on Facebook to promote AirAsia Citibank credit cards.

The campaign achieved overwhelming results and won a merit at the Direct Marketing Association of Malaysia Awards last year.

2 airlines get approvals to fly to S'pore from more Malaysian cities

25 March 2009

SINGAPORE: Low cost carrier AirAsia and the budget unit of Malaysian Airlines have been given permission to fly to Singapore from more Malaysian cities, according to reports quoting Malaysia's Transport Minister, Ong Tee Keat.

The reports said AirAsia's new routes will link Singapore with Penang and Langkawi as well as Sandakan and Tawau in Borneo.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Airlines' low cost operator Firefly has been given permission to ply between Singapore and cities like Penang, Kuantan and Terengganu.

The Malaysian government has also allowed Firefly to fly the competitive Kuala Lumpur to Singapore route, according to the reports.

Despite these approvals, Malaysia will have to negotiate its bilateral air services agreement with Singapore before the carriers can be granted access to the routes.

Channel NewsAsia understands discussions are underway and transport ministry officials from both sides are expected to meet soon to tie up details.

AirAsia establishing four new hubs

25 March 2009

AirAsia is planning to establish hubs at Phuket in Thailand, Penang in Malaysia and Medan and Bandung in Indonesia to aid its expansion.

The low-cost carrier's spokesman in its Kuala Lumpur headquarters says the group is taking delivery of 14 Airbus A320s during the remainder of this year. Most will be for its Indonesian and Thai affiliate carriers, he adds.

He says as a consequence the group is planning to establish hubs at Phuket in Thailand, Penang in Malaysia and Medan and Bandung in Indonesia.

These are likely to be established this year and it means the carrier will have aircraft, pilots, cabin crew and ground staff stationed in those places, says the spokesman.

He also says it will be launching new international services from these places but he was unable to elaborate.

AirAsia currently has bases in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Jakarta as well as a hub in Denpasar Bali in Indonesia and hubs in Johor Bahru and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia.

Phuket is AirAsia Thai hub

24 March 2009

AirAsia, Southeast Asia's largest low-cost carrier, is turning Phuket into its second hub in Thailand, a move that will support its plan to open a series of new routes directly linking the island resort with other Asian cities.

Phuket is looming large on AirAsia's radar screen, along with Medan in Indonesia's North Sumatra, Bandung in West Java and Penang in Malaysia where it will set up bases as part of its aggressive expansion.

The Phuket base, scheduled to be up and running in the second half of this year, will serve as a springboard for the carrier to embark on new flights from the island to cities in China and Hong Kong initially.

"Having a hub in Phuket means you can operate more new routes using Phuket as a base, and bring in more traffic from overseas,'' Kathleen Tan, AirAsia's regional head of commercial flights, said in an interview.

The plan requires its Thai sister airline, Thai AirAsia, to hire ground staff, engineers for jet maintenance and initially to keep at least one aircraft on standby, she explained.

Phuket is one of AirAsia's top ports of call, in terms of traffic volume, and the no-frills carrier intends to further exploit the potential of the budget-conscious leisure travel segment.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Praise for Malaysian aviation, MAS & AirAsia shares jump - share wrap

20 March 2009

The Malaysian aviation market has been one of Asia's most dynamic in recent years, supported by the effective restructuring of national carrier, Malaysia Airlines, and the rapid development of LCC, AirAsia.

IATA Director General and CEO, Giovanni Bisignani, recognised this in a speech to the Malaysian International Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI), noting, "the elements for success are in place".

Mr Bisignani stated Malaysia's "bold move" to reduce landing fees at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) by 50% for two years will keep KLIA competitive, supporting Malaysian tourism and international business.

Bisignani also welcomed the decision to focus efforts on building a strong KLIA hub. In Feb-2009, the Malaysian Government abandoned plans for a second (low cost) airport in favour of expanding KLIA. He stated, "the priority must be on providing efficient infrastructure that delivers low costs for all airlines. Cross-subsidisation is not acceptable. Common facilities and services, such as landing charges and security, must be borne equally. And access to all facilities must be open to all airlines".

Malaysia Airlines shares rose strongly yesterday, advancing 7.9%, while AirAsia added 2.7%.

Eslewhere, Shanghai Airlines also had a strong day, rising 5.4%.

Asia Pacific selected airlines daily share price movements (% change): 19-Mar-09

AirAsia increases Kuala-Lumpur-Guilin services

20 March 2009

Due to the robust demand, AirAsia is increasing its flight frequency between Kuala Lumpur and Guilin, China to daily direct flights from 01-May-09. Initially, AirAsia had launched its Guilin route in Jul-08 with four direct weekly flights between Kuala Lumpur’s Low Cost Carrier Terminal and Liangjiang Airport in Guilin.

It is noteworthy to highlight that AirAsia is the first and only airline from Malaysia to offer direct service between the two cities.

AirAsia Regional Head of Commercial, Ms. Kathleen Tan said, “We are proud of the development of this first direct flight to Guilin as guests can now benefit from our wide connectivity and frequency to travel conveniently, with low fares! Since its launch in July 2008, AirAsia’s Guilin route has received tremendous response and carried over 51,000 guests. As of now the route has recorded an average load of 75%. The increased frequency will not only complement AirAsia’s aggressive growth in China, but is also stimulating tourism by feeding more traffic to both countries.”

“We will continue to work closely with the Guilin Tourism Board and Liangjiang Airport to drive tourist traffics, with a particular focus on utilizing our international route network through AirAsia X to connect traffic from Europe and Australia.”

On top of that, AirAsia is also offering a promotion fare from as low as RM69 one way, in conjunction with the announcement of its increased frequency. Guests may book online at AirAsia’s website from 19 – 29-Mar-09 to enjoy the promotion fare for travel period beginning 01-May-09 to 31-Jan-2010.

New budget airline boost for Malaysian property

The Malaysian property market's appeal to British buyers has been boosted by the launch of a new budget airline service.

Against a backdrop of depressing credit crunch business news, Air Asia X has started a new service offering flights five times a week from Stansted to the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur. The company has already sold 50,000 tickets priced between £149 and £199 one way, compared to typical prices of £300 charged by other airlines.

John Scott, director of Southeast Asian property specialist, Asset Property Brokers, said: "This is good news for those thinking about investing in property or seeking a holiday home in Malaysia.

"Although property price rises have slowed in line with the global downturn, Malaysia's property market has been more robust than most.

"The launch of this new airline service will add a further boost to Malaysia's booming tourist industry, driving up occupancy rates and yields of well located and managed hotel property projects."

A record 22 million people visited the country in 2008, an increase of five percent compared with the previous year, making it Southeast Asia's top tourist destination. Thailand, its nearest competitor, attracted over a third less visitors at 14 million.

Asset Property Brokers has available villas at Golden Palm Tree Resort, an iconic luxury hotel development forming the shape of a palm tree that will stretch out almost a mile into the Straits of Malacca, near Kuala Lumpur.

New LCCT departure hall opens

18 March 2009

SEPANG: The new international departure hall at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal opens today with the first flight to Guangzhou, China leaving at 5.50am.

The new hall can accommodate 3,200 passengers compared to 600 at the old one.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad senior general manager (operation services) Datuk Azmi Murad said the number of international travellers was growing rapidly with the introduction of AirAsia’s new long-haul destinations, including to London, Perth, Gold Coast and Melbourne.

“The number of domestic passengers for 2008 were 5,050,693 while international passengers were 5,087,859,” he told reporters when giving a media tour at the hall here yesterday.

Better facilities: Azmi taking the media on a tour of the new international departure hall at the LCCT in Sepang.

However, he said, international passengers were expected to grow and make up 60% of the total in the next two years.

Azmi said the expansion project, which cost about RM124mil, would increase terminal maximum capacity by 50% from the current 10 million passengers per annum (ppa) to 15 million by 2011.

“In order to cope with the growth, immigration counters, including the auto gate lanes, will also be increased to 45 from 18,” he said.

He said there was also an increase of 10 boarding gates for international departure compared to eight.

“Other new facilities include 12 shower rooms, five baby changing rooms, one smoking room and four lifts and escalators,” he said.

He said passengers could also expect faster baggage delivery with the expansion of two carousels to six.

On parking facilities, he said, there was an additional of 1,500 parking bays. “The number of retail outlets has been increased to 28 from the present seven with an additional six food and beverages outlets,” he said.

On the old departure hall, Azmi said it would be closed from today for renovation.

On what would happen to the LCCT when the new LCCT at the KL International Airport is completed in 2011, Azmi said: “It can be converted into a cargo terminal but we will decide later.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

AirAsia chief receives Laureate award

17 March 2009

AIRASIA Group CEO Datuk Tony Fernandes recently received a Laureate Award in the Commercial Air Transport category at the 52nd annual Laureate Awards held in Washington DC.

The annual award, organised by global aviation publisher Aviation Week, was conceived more than 50 years ago to recognise the extraordinary achievements of individuals and teams in aviation, aerospace and defence.

It recognises exceptional strategy, heroism and leadership in aviation, aerospace and defence. Its honourees have improved their organisations, championed new technologies, and changed aviation history, Aviation Week said.

"Fernandes was chosen for his tireless efforts to build the AirAsia brand into one of the most recognisable in the Asia-Pacific region, while always maintaining its successful low-cost model.

"We would also like to give a nod to Tony for being one of the more charismatic leaders in the airline industry," said Aviation Week deputy managing editor Jennifer Michels.

Fernandes said AirAsia was honoured to receive such a prestigious award from Aviation Week.

"The Laureate Award for best commercial air transport is indeed a recognition for what AirAsia actually is and its passionate and dedicated members of the staff. We humbly accept this award and look forward to entering the US market in the near future.

"I am particularly thrilled as this award came exactly a week to the launch of our inaugural flight between Kuala Lumpur and London. This flight makes links to continents such as Europe, Asia and Australia at affordable fares.

AirAsia and Tune Money in IT tie-up

17 March 2009

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia Bhd has entered into an information technology (IT) shared services agreement with Tune Money Sdn Bhd to maximise and optimise the use of the resources, expertise and facilities of AirAsia’s IT department and as an additional source of recurring income to AirAsia.

Under the terms of the agreement, the company would provide Tune Money a range of IT services on sharing basis including but not limited to resources, expertise, and facilities in exchange for a payment of a fee, it told Bursa Malaysia yesterday.

The relevant fee is based on 25% of the total monthly payroll costs of AirAsia’s IT department and the cost of any shared facilities provided by AirAsia to Tune Money by virtue of the agreement.

It is estimated that the fee payable by Tune Money to AirAsia will be RM100,000 per month. Both companies have common shareholders.

OldTown White Coffee flying high

16 March 2009

AIR TRAVELLERS can now enjoy their favourite cuppa of Ipoh’s most famous white coffee while aboard AirAsia flights from the Kuala Lumpur hub.

The low-cost airline has, since March 1, started inflight service of OldTown White Coffee 3-in-1 Classic blend at RM5 per cup.

"Now everyone can fly and drink OldTown White Coffee," quipped OldTown’s group marketing general manager Alex Chuah Seong Meng (pix).

Indeed, sales have been encouraging with 300 cups being sold per day on board AirAsia flights, he said.

"We’re looking forward to seeing sales of over a thousand cups a day soon," said Chuah.

He also said that serving the "classic" blend on board is just the beginning.

"We plan to provide more options for AirAsia passengers, by adding two more products – our OldTown 3-in-1 White Milk Tea and 3-in-1 White Coffee with Hazelnut."

Chuah said following the positive response on local flights, the sale of OldTown White Coffee will also be extended to AirAsia flights from its Indonesia and Thailand hubs next month.

"Through this collaboration with AirAsia to serve our products in all three of the airline’s business hubs, travellers in Southeast Asia can experience the thick aroma of OldTown White Coffee while flying.

"Southeast Asia is our target territory, thus this collaboration is a good channel to promote our products," he said.

OldTown White Coffee is exported to 15 countries including China, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, Japan, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Singapore and Papua New Guinea.

"We are also seeking to expand to possible markets in the Middle East and Australia," he said.

Chua said OldTown White Coffee has achieved a 12% growth in sales and plans to open 40 more outlets this year.

Meanwhile, apart from letting AirAsia passengers savour the OldTown White Coffee, the company is also opening its latest outlet, its 121st at LCCT Kuala Lumpur – the bastion of AirAsia – to let coffee lovers indulge in a good cup of java as well as have a good meal when they arrive at the airport.

Besides beverages, local delights such as Ipoh chicken hor fun, nasi lemak and nasi rendang will be served at the outlet, 24 hours a day, seven days a week together with its usual spread of toasts, buns and sandwiches

"The investment for this outlet is about RM600,000," Chuah revealed.

OldTown White Coffee started in 1958 when its Hainanese founder in Ipoh devised an ingenious style of roasting coffee beans, much to the delight of coffee connoisseurs in the old town neighbourhood of Ipoh.

OldTown White Coffee is a perfect blend of specially roasted Liberica, Arabica and Robusta beans with small amounts of caramel, moderately roasted in high temperature.