26 January 2010
LOW-COST carrier AirAsia X wants to start flying direct from the Gold Coast to New Zealand this year, further cementing the Coast's position as an international hub.
The Kuala Lumpur carrier's chief executive Azran Osman-Rani -- in Australia for the official opening of the Gold Coast Airport yesterday -- said one of the company's 2010 objectives was to start flights to Christchurch.
From KL, AirAsia X's parent company AirAsia flies to about 60 destinations.
AirAsia X flies to China, London and the Middle East.
Already there are 18 flights to Auckland from the Gold Coast weekly and three to Christchurch from airlines including Jetstar, Virgin Blue and Air New Zealand.
Mr Osman-Rani said the upgraded airport now provided more scope for the international carrier, which flies seven days a week to KL, to increase its presence here.
"We have a lot more growth plans in this area," said Mr Osman-Rani.
"The Gold Coast works as an effective gateway and international hub," he said.
"We want to look at getting people flying here and then on to New Zealand.
"I think there can be more opportunities within that market."
He said the Gold Coast-New Zealand paths continued to offer strong passenger numbers -- up 51 per cent in December -- and when the company officially announced flights, airfares would be 'AirAsia style prices'.
"People from KL can choose to get off here or wait in the transit lounge to go to New Zealand. Gold Coasters can use us to fly over there and vice versa," he said.
He added that he wanted to work with the airport on improving check-in experiences and decrease the 'pain points' for passengers.
"One of the things we are looking at is how we can get the international transit to work here and decrease the pain points when arriving and departing from an airport," he said.
"As an airline we are doing what we can to help make it a smoother process, like online and phone check-ins. We also are working on upgrading our booking site so people can book direct from London to Christchurch or Gold Coast to Phuket.
"At the moment they have to make two bookings."