Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sumatra quake: AirAsia helps out with charity flight

02 October 2009

PETALING JAYA: Anxious family members and rescue teams have snapped up all free air tickets on the Jakarta-Padang charity flight by AirAsia on Sunday.

The 260 tickets, to and from Padang, were booked up within 20 minutes of AirAsia putting them up on its website at 9am Friday, said AirAsia group regional head of commercial Kathleen Tan.

“AirAsia wants to do our bit during this critical moment in Padang. We want to reach out to the earthquake victims,” she said.

She claimed some travel agents had doubled the price of air-tickets between the two cities.

“We are not doing it for money. We are a people’s airline. It is our social responsibility,” she said.

She said AirAsia, which had stopped flights between the two cities previously, had managed to organise the charity fight within one hour on Wednesday, when a 7.9-magnitude earthquake struck the city.

At least 715 people were killed, although estimates vary, with the death toll expected to rise as thousands are still trapped underneath collapsed buildings.

“We will also provide cargo services to those who want to send rescue items to Padang,” Tan said.

She said AirAsia is also looking into the possibility of extra flights between the two cities during this period.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

AirAsia picks Amadeus for sales through agents

30 September 2009

AirAsia has decided that selling tickets exclusively through its own online system, rather than through a global distribution system (GDS) like a full-service airline, may not be enough for future growth.

Asia's largest no-frills carrier group has now embraced the booking system of Amadeus - a leading GDS player headquartered in Madrid - which will enable the airline to reach new customers via travel agencies.The ground-breaking partnership means Amadeus-subscribing travel agencies, which number more than 102,200, can now book flights on the AirAsia group - including sister airlines Thai AirAsia and Indonesia AirAsia and long-haul affiliate AirAsia X - just as they would for a legacy carrier.

AirAsia is the first low-cost carrier in the Asia-Pacific to get Amadeus's "ticketless access solution" (TAS).

TAS was first launched in Europe with easyJet, one of the region's leading low-cost carriers, and was then implemented with Dutch no-frills carrier Transavia and its sister airline, Transavia France.

David Brett, president for Amadeus Asia-Pacific based in Bangkok, said AirAsia had been successful in growing through online sales. But the airline now recognises it can increase its growth even further by reaching out to new customers through travel agencies.

This is particularly important for AirAsia as it is expanding globally with its long-haul AirAsia X and needs a broader base of international customers, he said.

Mr Brett added that the partnership with AirAsia is also timely as more and more corporate travellers are exploring lower-cost flight options.

"Typically, travellers who book via travel agents represent a higher yield for the airline on each ticket sale, so there is strong potential for AirAsia to increase their revenues," the British executive told the Bangkok Post.

Amadeus's booking system now displays AirAsia's real-time flight content - up to the last seat available - alongside that of other airlines when travel agents search for flights. This eliminates the time previously required to search through other screens, helping agents provide superior customer service.

For the first time, AirAsia can now reach out to travellers - including those in the corporate travel sector - who prefer to book through a travel agency.

Founded in 2001, AirAsia flies more than 130 routes to more than 70 domestic and international destinations, with about 400 flights daily from hubs in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Mr Brett said Amadeus expected interest from other budget carriers in Asia-Pacific and globally.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

AirAsia To Fly To Three New Routes In Southern India

28 September 2009

SEPANG-- AirAsia, Asia's leading low cost airline, will fly to Kochi, Trivandrum and Kolkata come December, in a move to expand its network in Southern India.

AsiaAsia Group's Regional Head of Commercial Kathleen Tan said AirAsia was flying now to Tiruchirappalli and would spread its wings to other destinations in Southern India this year.

"Last year we were very busy working in China and we are now extentively covered in China. At present, AirAsia flies to Chengdu, Guangzhou, Guilin, Haikou, Hangzhou, Shenzhen and Tianjin in China.

"For the fourth quarter and next year, AirAsia will focus on building our network in India where there is huge demand," she told Bernama in an interview on Monday in conjunction with AirAsia's 48-hour sales.

The two-day promotion, offers a 20 per cent discount on fares to all destinations, excluding London and Thailand, for the travel period beginning today until Nov 30.

It covers all domestic and international destinations across 20 countries and over 130 routes.

Elaborating on the Indian sector, Tan said AirAsia was looking at tapping destinations like Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and AirAsia's long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X, would look further at Mumbai and Delhi.

She said the Tiruchirappalli sector received overwhelming response from the population in Southern India who visited Kuala Lumpur and used it as a gateway to enter Southeast Asia.

On whether AsiaAsia was experiencing a dip in sales due to the economic downturn, Tan said AirAsia was not really affected due to the airline's strategic commercial initiative to encourage people to travel.

"Because of the economic downturn, people are downgrading but corporate travellers still want to fly. AirAsia offered alternative solutions to get people to fly," she said.

Tan said AirAsia's market was huge covering the corporate, youth, retired, labour, family and student segments, adding that travelling during an economic crisis was best because of low prices offered by hotels.

"Because of our low cost model, the fares are affordable. We are changing the travel dynamics in Asia and we see more Malaysians flying now. In the past, people in East Malaysia will not come to Kuala Lumpur because of the expensive airfare," she said.

Tan said the low cost carrier had opened up the flying experience as people not just travel for holidays but also for shopping or medical treatment.

She said AirAsia's low cost model also boosted domestic tourism as the airline's huge network enabled more Malaysians to take short domestic holidays to Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Miri and Tawau.

"We see 2009 as a challenging year for the aviation industry. We removed fuel surcharge and administration fees because we want to keep flying at affordable prices to stimulate travel.

"AirAsia today is more than just about low fares. We are selling romance, lifestyle and holiday dreams," Tan said.

Asked on AirAsia's sales target for 2010, Tan said the economy was recovering and people are beginning to spend.

"The worst is over, so let's see. Our bookings have been very encouraging," said Tan, adding that AirAsia was still expanding despite the challenging economy.

Saying that the low cost model was more matured and gaining acceptance, Tan added that online booking was no longer an issue because people were more tech-savvy now.

On AirAsia's 48-hour sales campaign, Tan said the airline rarely offered such a promotion.

"The campaign will encourage people to travel because this year was a tough year due because of the H1N1 pandemic and challenging economic factors," she explained.

Asked on the sales expectation, Tan said: "I would not be able to give figures, it depends on the response, but I think the response will be good. we are running into the peak travel period now and people want to start planning their holidays."

During the two-day promotion, AirAsia will offer a 20 per cent discount on fares to all destinations, excluding London and Thailand, for the travel period beginning today until Nov 30.

It covers all domestic and international destinations across 20 countries and over 130 routes.

AirAsia aims to beef up cargo revenue

28 September 2009

Low-cost carrier AirAsia wants to increase its cargo business by targeting clients that are more price sensitive and less time sensitive, the Business Times reported.

The airline predicts it will be able to grow its cargo revenue by half in 2009 from the US$11.5 million recorded last year.

While cargo revenue represents roughly 1.5 percent of the group's topline in 2008, the airline hopes to increase the contribution to 10 percent by 2011.

The airline, which utilises less than 20 percent of the aircraft belly space for cargo now, has the potential to utilise up to 40 percent of its cargo space for core routes including Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Melbourne, London, Bangkok and Jakarta.

While the shipment amount remains small, frequent flights, such as eight flights daily between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, allow the carrier to provide more competitive rates in the market due to under utilised cargo capacity.

AirAsia offers 48-hour sale

27 September 2009

PETALING JAYA: On Monday and Tuesday, AirAsia is shaving 20 percent off its prices to all destinations except London and within Thailand.

The 48-hour sale involves travel from Monday to Nov 30 this year.

Its group regional head of commercial, Kathleen Tan said AirAsia’s low fair would continue to stimulate travel demand.

“Air Asia is just not about throwing low fares, but also affordable packages including ground transfers.” “It allows guests the option to travel through a seamless one stop travel,” she added in a press statement Sunday.

It is made available from AirAsia’s eight hubs namely Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Bangkok, Jakarta, Bali, Bandung, Johor Baru and Penang spanning countries and over 130 routes.

Promotional seats are limited and available on first-come, first served basis and made exclusively available online via and, the statement said.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Exclusive Q&A with Lotus's Tony Fernandes

25 September 2009

Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia. Formula One World Championship, Rd 14, Singapore Grand Prix, Practice Day, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Friday, 25 September 2009 Race winner Mario Andretti (USA) Lotus 79 leads his team mate Ronnie Peterson (SWE) who finished second. French Grand Prix, Paul Ricard, 2 July 1978. World © Phipps/Sutton Mike Gascoyne (GBR) and Tony Fernandes (MAL) CEO AirAsia. Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, Sunday 21 June 2009. (L to R): Pole sitter and race winner Mario Andretti (USA) talks with Colin Chapman (GBR) Lotus Team Owner. Dutch Grand Prix, Rd 13, Zandvoort, Holland, 27 August 1978. World © Phipps/Sutton Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia. Formula One World Championship, Rd 2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race Day, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday, 5 April 2009

He came into Formula One racing through sponsorship and, like Force India's Vijay Mallya, Air Asia boss Tony Fernandes realized the beauty of the sport. Now he plans to revive one of Britain's most iconic F1 names: Lotus. After winning a slot in the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Malaysian entrepreneur is throwing himself into the project with the aim of bringing together English racing heritage and Malaysian racing passion. And Fernandes is convinced that the cocktail will work...

Q: Tony, what do the names Colin Chapman and Jim Clark mean for you?
Tony Fernandes: Well, a wonderful heritage. I grew up listening to those names, I grew up watching Jim Clark on the track in all the cars that Colin Chapman put together. It evokes a lot of heritage and pride.

Q: A Malaysian company trying to revive a British racing legend. How did that happen?
TF: I got involved with Formula One through the Williams team and my sponsorship with them with Air Asia. I saw a tremendous amount of assets Malaysia had built up in F1 over the last five years and then I found Proton and Lotus - which to me seems to be a marriage made in heaven. To others this might sound odd and difficult, but when you see the brand being rolled out you will see that the heritage will be very much protected. I had a fantastic meeting with Clive and Hazel Chapman on the Goodwood Sunday and we got a car from them, in fact - Ayrton Senna's car that took the last race win by Lotus. So we feel very obliged to build on that heritage - and hopefully with the management of Lotus's road car division one day they should again be in the same vein as Ferrari with Ferrari cars and the Ferrari Formula One team. That sounds like lots of work to do, but at least there is a plan and a vision behind it - and there is a dream.

Q: What is it that you want to achieve?
TF: There are two aspects to what we are trying to do. First of all we want to show that Lotus and Proton can be world class - to revitalize Lotus and show that they can compete with the top marques in the world, and to show Proton that their cars are great technology and great engineering, made in Malaysia. From my side it's providing the software. In all the years Malaysia has been involved in Formula One there were only a handful of engineers coming out of the country, and not many Malaysian drivers or management. I want to help develop that and show that Malaysia has more to offer than construction of tall buildings. I envisage bringing our people to Formula One standard - to have more innovation, greater thinking and to show our kids that they can compete with the rest of he world. Now if you go to the Malaysian Grand Prix I see my people wearing Ferrari shirts - one day I want to see them wearing something Malaysian.

Q: Promoting two car companies - Lotus and Proton - via Formula One racing seems to be a costly exercise given that we've seen some of the global players withdrawing recently...
TF: Yes, it is a costly thing - but good things cost. I started my airline with two planes and built it up to 82 planes - and now it's a wonderful brand. My saying is that you pay for what you get: Formula One reaches enormous audiences, motivating enormous masses of people. There are not many sporting events that can create that, so the bottom line is that you pay for what you get. If you are successful the rewards will be 50 times more then the investment. The question is if we will be successful - that's on everybody's mind. I started my airline with $250,000 and everyone said 'he's nuts and mad'. So I got used to these kind of notions. I think we will have a good run and in years to come we will slowly build ourselves up.

Q: But when was it that you really got hooked on the idea of having an F1 team?
TF: Well, the guys who put in the first application - from a Formula Three racing team called Litespeed - approached me just before Silverstone and since then it's been a very fast development.

Q: You've said that you will run the team for the first few months but then hand it over to an experienced team principal. Do you have somebody in mind?
TF: No, not yet. I said that I will establish the framework, the brand, make sure that we deliver what we said that we would deliver, but in the long run it has to be managed by a fulltime professional - my job is to run Air Asia. I am not here for the glamorous part. I want to show that my country can do it and that my people can do it. We have that gap between now and Bahrain that I will oversee, and I am very proud of what we have already achieved in four months. Give us another four months and eventually we will find someone fit to take over from me.

Q: You have teamed up with Mike Gascoyne - a very familiar face in Formula One racing. How is that working?
TF: Litespeed had teamed up with Mike and we struck up a very quick relationship in Silverstone. I like his style, I like his honesty. He has worked phenomenally hard, he is very passionate - and I think he's very good at mixing with Malaysians. I think we found a good guy.

Q: Budget is a key issue in bringing a car to the grid. What will the Lotus budget be?
TF: We are estimating that to get the car on the grid will cost us between £20-30 million, which will be equity financed by the shareholders, and we estimate the running costs of the team to be around £55 million - that will be the bottom end of the budgets. But I keep telling people that it's not about money but all about having the right people and being smart - as Vijay has shown. This budget will come through sponsorship and obviously there are a lot of Malaysian sponsors now who want to get involved. We will raise that money.

Q: Drivers are always a key element to a successful team. Do you already have an idea of where to look?
TF: We are starting to do that now. There is no point thinking about drivers when you don't have a slot on the grid. But now that we have a plan, that we have an engine, that we start hiring people we can think about drivers. Ideal would be an experienced driver and a rookie, but there is no name that I can drop this very moment.

Q: So coming to the crucial questions: how far away is the car and what is in the factory at the moment?
TF: The car is going through wind tunnel tests and we are scaling up rapidly. We should have a physical car ready in late December, the engine will be Cosworth, and we will be ready for testing in January - like everybody else. I took a big gamble because we started to build the car before we had the slot. Had we not been given the slot I would have ended up with some very nice pictures - very expensive, computer graphic pictures. But life is a gamble. You have certain shots in life - either you grab them or you try to be risk averse and wait forever. I decided to take the chance, and the risk paid off. Maybe the risk paid off because people like Bernie or Max (Mosley) saw our passion - and maybe saw something different. Maybe they fell for the idea that you have to have teams outside of Europe.

AirAsia X eyes second French route

PETALING JAYA: While Nice will be AirAsia X’s first port of call in France next year, the long-haul low cost carrier is looking at adding a second destination in the country.

The carrier believed there was strong demand for flights between Nice and Kuala Lumpur but would not be launching the route “anytime soon”, AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes said in an interview with Bloomberg TV yesterday.

“Well, I think there’s a huge amount of demand. That would be our first point of call. We’ve also got the whole of the south of France, you’ve got Geneva a couple of hours away and you’ve also got Milan,” he said.

He said AirAsia was innovative in the way it looked at destinations and going to Nice was “really serving the whole of the south of France, a bit of Italy and Switzerland.”

Asked whether there would be more capital fund raising for AirAsia in the next two years, Fernandes said no.

“We had a fantastic roadshow, great demand, so we raised RM500mil. It’s only the second time we’ve been in the market. The first time was our IPO (initial public offering) in 2004,” he said.

The company announced its capital-raising last month to pare down its debt. Fernandes said AirAsia’s business income had been strong and ancilliary income was increasing. “Oil prices have come off substantially so we don’t see ourselves needing capital for a long long time,” he added.

On the expansion of AirAsia’s fleet, Fernandes said the company was looking to take in 16 planes next year, eight planes fewer than originally planned.

“The demand (for travel) has been very good. We’ve continued to outgrow capacity above 20% in the last two quarters (and) this quarter is looking very strong as well in terms of passengers,” he said. He said the carrier had just started flying into India, which “has been looking very good”.