Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lotus set to run AirAsia logos in Spain

30 April 2010

The logo of team boss Tony Fernandes' AirAsia airline could soon feature on the 2010 Lotus car.

We reported last month that because the logos are already seen prominently on Williams' FW32, Fernandes was instead content to advertise his investment firm Tune Group on the green T127.

But according to a report in Finland's leading newspaper Turun Sanomat, the situation might be different when the heavily updated cars emerge from the pits in Barcelona next week.

The report said the AirAsia logo "will be displayed" on the Lotus in Spain.

Meanwhile, we also reported in March that the logos of the Brazilian oil company Petrobras might be added to the T127's livery in Barcelona.

But Turun Sanomat said the deal has not been done in time to debut at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Carat retains AirAsia's media in India and Taiwan

30 April 2010

NEW DELHI - AirAsia has retained Carat as its media agency in the Indian subcontinent and Taiwan without a pitch.

According to Kathleen Tan, regional head of commercial at AirAsia, the two markets were never included as part of the regional media pitch. Earlier this month Mindshare beat Zenith, MPG and incumbent Carat to win the business in Malaysia.

She added that "The quality of work produced by Carat in Taiwan and India had been outstanding and we therefore decided not to include these markets in the pitch."

"We are delighted that Air Asia has recognized the value we bring to the media communication for AirAsia in India. We understood that AirAsia had a challenge to face while launching in a complex market like India and had put together a team of our best resources across all areas of specialisation like OOH, digital and activation apart from traditional media to manage the brand in the country," said Kartik Iyer, MD of Carat India.

"We will make all efforts to ensure that AirAsia has a very successful launch across every city they fly to and will strive to establish them as a young and dynamic brand as its is seen in other Southeast Asian countries."

By Campaign India Team


Politics spurs Thai AirAsia to cut flights

30 April 2010

Thai AirAsia, a budget carrier, will reduce flights on its Bangkok-Taipei and Bangkok-Guangzhou routes to reflect weakened demand largely caused by Thailand's political turmoil.

From tomorrow, the low-cost carrier will cut flights on the Taipei route from daily to four flights a week and Guangzhou to three flights a week from daily, said chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld.

Traffic from China and other North Asian states has continued to plunge as their respective governments have advised citizens against travelling to the kingdom as violent political protests show no signs of stopping.

These are the only two international routes Thai AirAsia plans to cut back.

The airline's overall load factor has remained ''okay'' at 70%, but the percentage may decline if the Thai political situation gets worse. The carrier said inbound traffic has suffered due to the political crisis.

Mr Tassapon indicated the political mayhem may influence the airline's plan to start daily services from Bangkok to New Delhi and Kolkata.

''We still need to find out how Indians are reacting to the Thai political situation. Maybe they don't care if they view the situation as less critical than what takes place in their own country,'' he said.

''There are still attractions in Bangkok like shopping bargains that may override concerns about political clashes.''

The airline still hopes to start its Indian flights in June as planned, he said.

Thai AirAsia is reducing frequencies on two domestic routes tomorrow due to the low season. The Bangkok-Chiang Mai route will be reduced to five flights a day from six now, and Bangkok-Krabi will drop to three flights from four at present.

Bangkok Post

Don't jump the gun, Ong tells AirAsia X

28 April 2010

PUTRAJAYA: Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat has asked AirAsia X (AAX) not to assume that its application to fly the Kuala Lumpur-Sydney route was not being approved because the Government was protecting Malaysia Airlines (MAS).

"As far as routes are concerned, we cannot please everybody as decisions have to be made according to criteria that is already laid. It is not that we will not consider applications, especially involving home-grown airlines.

"We take a hard look at all applications for new routes and weigh aspects like passenger load, viability, and whether the market for the new destination is large enough to accommodate two airlines," he told a press conference after chairing his weekly post-Cabinet meeting here Wednesday.

"There are also other criteria we have to consider, including the benefits to the Malaysian economy. Thus, it takes time to reach a decision in some cases," Ong added.

"My advise to AirAsia X is that they do not jump the gun and allow us to see if all the criteria are met, as well as let us reach a decision according to the rules and regulations," he said.

Ong was commenting on reports that AAX chief executive officer Azran Osman Rani had lashed out on Twitter last month, alleging that "the (incumbent) is blocking us because they say that route must be protected."

Azran also called for a rational and clear policy on route allocation based on the interests of the country and not an individual airline.

AAX, which intended to start the service to Sydney in the middle of this year, had hoped to get the approval by March.

MAS currently offers 12 direct flights on the Kuala Lumpur-Sydney route while the other airline with the rights, Jetstar, stopped plying the route in 2008 and has yet to resume flights.

By Dharmendar Singh

The Star

AirAsia revs up motor sports, launches ASEAN Driver Development Program

28 April 2010

KUALA LUMPUR– The world’s best low-cost airline launched today the AirAsia ASEAN Driver Development Program, accelerating the growth of motorsports in the region.

The program provides an avenue for youth in the ASEAN region to pursue their dream of becoming professional race car drivers. It offers aspiring drivers a platform to polish their talents and effectively compete with world class drivers.

Two of the most promising young drivers in the region will be pioneering training under the AirAsia ASEAN Driver Development Program. Nabil Jeffri of Malaysia and Daim Hishammudin of Singapore will train under expert mentors including former Malaysian motor racing driver Alex Yoong.

Nabil, 16 years old, is the current Rotax Max Asia Champion and is the most promising karter that Malaysia has produced. He finished 6th in the Rotax world finals and will compete in the next Formula BMW Pacific race.

Daim, 12 years old, is Singapore’s young star karter. He is the reigning Rotax Max Champion in Cadets and has shown great potential in becoming one of the world’s top karters. He will be competing for the junior title in Asia and will also race in Europe.

AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes said, “The program aims to nurture more regional talents for professional racing. AirAsia is searching the field of talents in ASEAN for youngsters to join the program. AirAsia is focused on finding young drivers with great talent and who display the discipline and commitment needed for success. The program is open to male and female young driver aspirants.”

Alex said, “A successful driver needs to be well-rounded and have no weaknesses. It is especially important that they mature at a rate quick enough to complement their growing talent and experience. We must also work closely with the boys’ main sponsors so that they get the exposure needed to ensure their continued support.”

As a bonus, the young drivers will also be receiving AirAsia’s support for publicity and sponsorship. AirAsia will help the drivers raise their profiles in the ASEAN region and beyond and help them source other long-term corporate sponsorships.

Drivers accepted into the program will train at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia and in their respective home countries.

AirAsia Celebrates Chennai – Penang Inaugural Flight

28 April 2010

Bayan Lepas– AirAsia, the leading and largest low-cost carrier in Asia celebrates its inaugural flight AK5702 from Chennai to Penang at the Penang International Airport today. AirAsia is the only airline in Malaysia to operate this route connecting Penang and Chennai.

YAB Mr. Lim Guan Eng, Chief Minister of Penang, was present to welcome over 165 guests on the inaugural flight from Chennai at the Penang International Airport, together with YB Tuan Law Heng Kiang, Penang EXCO for Penang State Tourism, Development and Culture. YBhg. Dato’ Aziz Bakar, Chairman of AirAsia Berhad were also present along with Ms. Ooi Geok Ling, Managing Director of Penang Global Tourism, distinguished guests from government bodies, travel agents and members of the media.

Chief Minister of Penang, YAB Mr. Lim Guan Eng said: “AirAsia’s extremely affordable fares starting from RM199 (INR 2,999) one way for this new direct flight from Chennai to Penang will definitely contribute to the number of tourists arriving into Penang this year. In 2009, we had approximately 470,000 international tourists visiting Penang, but only 7,000 are from India. That only makes up 1.5 percent of total international tourist arrivals into Penang.”

Lim also added, “We are very delighted with this new addition of direct flight to India, boosting connectivity from the Penang International Airport as well as further charting the historically-rich, unique and multi-cultural state of Penang on the world map. We hope the over 165 guests from Chennai on this inaugural flight will experience Penang and return again.”

YBhg Dato’ Aziz Bakar, Chairman of AirAsia Berhad said: “We are honoured to have the Chief Minister of Penang to receive our guests from Chennai on our inaugural flight today, which received an encouraging 90 percent load. With this new route connecting Malaysia’s most popular northern state and India’s fifth most populous city in India, we hope to bring in more Indian tourists to discover Penang, and the rest of Malaysia; in line with Tourism Malaysia’s target of 650,000 Indian tourists this year.”

“Indian tourists arriving into Penang can optimize on our extensive route network as AirAsia currently flies to 11 other domestic and international cities via the Penang International Airport. And not to mention via our Kuala Lumpur hub which connects to more than 70 destinations across South East Asia, Australia, China and Europe. Furthermore, with our one-stop travel portal AirAsiaGo, guests can also enjoy special packages on hotels, tours and ground transfers to further enhance their holiday experience here,” he added.

AirAsia conquered India skies by storm in January this year by launching six new routes to India which include key metro cities of Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai and New Delhi from their Kuala Lumpur hub, while Chennai is connected from both Kuala Lumpur and Penang. The Kuala Lumpur – Chennai route will begin operations on 17 May 2010.

The Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad sectors are serviced by AirAsia’s A320 aircrafts, while Mumbai and Delhi are served by its long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X via its new Airbus A330 fleet.

Give us Sydney, not Pyongyang, says AirAsia X

28 April 2010

KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — The government’s efforts to protect Malaysia Airlines is hurting the country’s economy as it is discouraging more connectivity, says AirAsia X which is involved in a tussle over rights to fly to Sydney and other key cities.

In an interview with The Malaysian Insider, AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman Rani said that he was told not to “disturb” Malaysia Airlines and consider flying to 34 cities not served by the incumbent including North Korea’s capital Pyongyang, Peshawar in Pakistan, Dili in East Timor, Almaty in Kazakhstan, Mahe in the Seychelles and Darwin, Australia.

Azran said that such thinking is bad for the country as Malaysia’s connectivity to key cities such as Beijing, Tokyo and Sydney is being compromised which will impact tourism, the second highest source of foreign exchange, as well as business as corporations take connectivity into account when deciding where to locate regional headquarters.

'They just can’t replicate the sambal taste of Malaysian caterers.' - Picture by Choo Choy May

“You are spending so much money on Malaysia Truly Asia (tourism campaign) and does she (the minister of tourism) want the plane to fly to Pyongyang or Seoul?” said Azran. “Does she want the plane to fly to Sydney or Darwin? Does she want the planes to fly to key markets or small peripheral markets that we can’t even spell?”

He said that competition was good as it would grow the overall market and said that since AirAsia X started flying to Perth and Melbourne, traffic increased by 66 per cent and 48 per cent respectively while on the Kuala Lumpur and Sydney route, which it does not have rights to, traffic dropped by 27 per cent.

“The funny thing, the absolute irony is, the absolute irony – do you know where Malaysia Airlines is strongest?” said Azran. “It is domestic and Asean where they have the most competition from AirAsia. Look at their financial results. They are most profitable in domestic and Asean.”

“We seem to be paralysed, not being able to make what should be a very clear decision on how we are going to catch up to our regional rivals and yet we wrestle with what seems to be ‘Oh we have to protect national interest,” said Azran.

“Malaysia Airlines is not national interest. National interest is the Malaysian economy. But we still can’t make that distinction.”

He also said that some 110,000 Malaysians were flying to London indirectly via other cities while some 80,000 Malaysians were flying to Sydney indirect.

“The number of Malaysians going to Sydney via Singapore is growing phenomenally, more than 15 per cent per year,” said Azran adding that flights from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney via Singapore were cheaper than flying from Singapore to Sydney.

“Go to the Singapore Airlines website. What they quote KL-Sydney via Singapore is cheaper than what they quote for buying a ticket from Singapore to Sydney alone. Why do Malaysians take that option? It is cheaper, they have a choice of three flights a day, they fly the A380. It hurts our country because we are being hollowed out,” he said.

“Passengers flying to London are now being hubbed out of the middle east because the middle east carriers realise Malaysia has untapped demand. The number of Malaysians travelling indirectly to London is bigger than the direct flights to London.”

He suggested that the government look at Singapore which stressed connectivity and choice which ultimately benefitted Singapore Airlines.

“For all of Singapore Airlines successes, just about every flight that Singapore Airlines flies out of Singapore, there are alternative choices, there are other airlines that fly those routes,” said Azran.

“Despite all the innovations and service quality that Singapore Airlines is known for, it is one of the most cost efficient airlines and it is 15 per cent more efficient in terms of unit cost than regional peers. So it has a cost advantage and it has a quality advantage which is a winning proposition. If Singapore Airlines were to fly to Australia, it has to compete head to head with Qantas, British Airways and Emirates, with Qatar. If it goes to Europe it has to compete with Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France.”

“In contrast, Malaysia, you have an airline that flies a lot of routes that doesn’t have direct competition. It’s no surprise that Singapore Airlines has learned to innovate its business model. What the Singapore government has said is that what is important is the connectivity that Singapore as country is depending on, not ‘oh, we have to protect Singapore Airlines.’”

Touching on other matters, Azran said that AirAsia X would not be able to mount more flights to Europe or fly to the US until the new A350 jets are ready starting 2015.

Asked about whether long-haul budget airline is going to start flights to Paris after reportedly being given the rights by the French government, Azran said that he has yet to receive confirmation of the rights.

“It has yet to land on my desk,” he said. “Until it does, we cannot initiate detailed plans.”

Asked about complaints on airline review websites about AirAsia X food by Australian customers, Azran said that it was because the food on flights coming from Australia came from Australian caterers who were unable to replicate certain tastes.

'But the problem we have and one of the issues we have in this country is the dichotomy of government as policy maker vs government as shareholder (in MAS).' - Picture by Choo Choy May

“No matter how hard they try, they just can’t replicate the sambal taste of Malaysian caterers,” he said.

He also said that the AirAsia website will also be overhauled for a better customer experience and to enhance revenue and that he is looking at introducing new innovations to the AirAsia X menu but declined to elaborate.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: What is our national policy?

A: That’s the problem. The national policy framework and the decision making framework isn’t clear. It should have been crystal clear, which is — what is in it for the country? But the problem we have and one of the issues we have in this country is the dichotomy of government as policy maker vs government as shareholder. Because therein lies the conflict. Am I interested in the economy and interested in consumers or, ‘I am a shareholder of a GLC so I am looking out for the interest of the GLC’ at the expense at the expense of consumers?

That is the fundamental problem. Today, if you still have policy makers, i.e. senior civil servants on the boards of these companies, you can see why there is a conflict. Then if you are on the board of the company, you want to see it succeed. The easiest way to be successful — protect lah. You can raise high fares, you don’t have to change and transform yourself, you can generate profits. But those are artificial profits, if you don’t go through the rigours of being more efficient.

Q: What have you proposed to the government?

A: The proposal is very simple. You have to allow airlines routes. You have to allow competition. The funny thing, the absolute irony is, the absolute irony – do you know where Malaysia Airlines is strongest? It is domestic and Asean where they have the most competition from AirAsia. Look at their financial results. They are most profitable in domestic and Asean. When you look at their latest results, domestic is a lot more profitable. Remember in the days before AirAsia? MAS was losing money on domestic routes. They needed hundreds in millions in subsidies.

Now because of AirAsia and lower prices, suddenly domestic is profitable. Why? Because you have to be a lot more efficient. And guess where they want to expand. If you look at their expansion plans — where are they adding flights? Perth! Where are they cutting back flights? Sydney! It (KL-Sydney) used to be 14 times now it’s 12 times a week! Perth they are adding flights! How do you explain that when we come in, more competition and they decide to add flights? Because when there is competition, the market grows. We grew the Perth total market in 2009 by 66 per cent. If you look at Malaysia Airports data, 2009 vs 2008, last year was 166 per cent that of 2008. Sydney — it was minus 27 per cent! So what gives? Melbourne is up by 48 per cent.

Q: You’ve suggested allowing competition on routes? What have they said?

A: You can even say (that we should be given) routes where we are far behind Singapore and Bangkok. Doesn’t that make sense? So that’s basically what we’re saying is allow us to address segments where Malaysia is strategically behind Singapore and Bangkok. That should make sense. The response has been frankly muted because they can’t

'Most of Singapore routes are flown by another carrier. They don’t complain.' - Picture by Choo Choy May

seem to reconcile what is good for the country and the need to protect Malaysia Airlines. And we really need to address Malaysia Airlines and say – what is so problematic that you can’t accept competition? And the only argument that they raise is that when AirAsia X was first raised, it was meant to be complementary to Malaysia Airlines and not competition. Does that mean you don’t want competition? Does Singapore Airlines say ‘eh – I don’t want Qantas flying, I don’t want BA flying, not at all.’

Most of Singapore routes are flown by another carrier. They don’t complain. They get better. Just ask Malaysia Airlines, if competition is so bad, how come you are better now in Asean and domestic where competition with AirAsia is really intense? It used to be KL to Kota Kinabalu, someone would have to pay RM800 and maybe about six to seven flights a day. Now between AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines, they have 18 flights per day. It has tripled the number of flights, fares have come down, and Malaysia Airlines is profitable. So isn’t that a win-win-win? Good for the customer, trade and airlines.

Q: A lot of the public would tend to agree with you but what is going on with the decision makers?

A: The decision makers are struggling because number one, it’s unfortunate that you have senior members of the cabinet who have experience in the aviation sector who have opted to take a stance that competition between Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia is not good. We’ve had the opportunity to present to the economic council members and cabinet and to be fair, a lot of them see the clear rationale. But don’t listen to AirAsia X, ask the minister of tourism (Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen). She has to deliver on her KPIs. She has growth targets to meet. Where does she want her planes to fly? You need planes because you can spend RM100 million on campaigns but you will get zero extra tourists if you don’t have flights. So you are spending so much money on Malaysia Truly Asia and does she want the plane to fly to Pyongyang or Seoul? Does she want the plane to fly to Sydney or Darwin? Does she want the planes to fly to key markets or small peripheral markets that we can’t even spell?

It was positioned to us that AirAsia X does not bring tourists, we only bring transit passengers. Complete nonsense. Go to Tourism Malaysia websites, look at their 2009 numbers, inbound traffic. They look at bona fide tourists. Where are the biggest growth countries? Australia grew by 25 per cent. Now, Malaysia Airlines reduced their flights (to Australia) in 2009. So how did we get 25 per cent growth in inbound Australia tourists if it was not AirAsia X as no other airlines flies there? China grew, Taipei grew, UK grew, basically where AirAsia X flies. Korea — minus 15 per cent, Japan minus 7 per cent. So where we don’t fly, the market shrank.

Does competition really hurt Malaysia Airlines? If competition is really bad, and we just taking away passengers away from them, why are they adding flights to Perth? Why are they now having direct flights to Brisbane?

Q: One of the arguments is that Malaysia Airlines has to shoulder the burden of flying to unprofitable domestic destinations in the interior.

A: That is separate. That is under MAS Wings. That is completely sheltered. There is a specific programme for that. Their choice of international travel has nothing to do with that. The sad thing is that we look at a narrow view – that it is Malaysia Airlines and it is national interest. We need to look at the big picture and say we are falling further and further behind Singapore and Bangkok.

Korea — 64 flights a week from Seoul to Bangkok. Six airlines compete. Guess how many flights a week from Seoul to KL? 12! Where do you think Korean golfers want to spend their weekend? They will go to Bangkok because it is easy and flights are cheaper. And now there is opportunity because Thailand is struggling because of political instability so let’s grab the opportunity.

Q: Is that why they finally allowed you to fly to Seoul?

A: I think so and also because we told them that 2010 is a critical year because it is the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations, the president of the republic of Korea is going to visit Malaysia. That helps but this is a decision that was more than a year… to decide on something that is very obvious in terms of benefit to the country.

Q: Do you think that this signals a change, that they will now give you Sydney?

A: I am optimistic. Number one, we are very confident that when we start flying to Seoul, people will see the benefits very clearly on both sides. We should see a reversal of the trend of negative growth in 2009 to a positive growth in 2011. And that should pave the way. Because the facts are overwhelming, it is just a matter of time. If you are trying to protect Malaysia Airlines, you are going to run out of excuses very soon.

Q: I do get comments from visitors to KL that they only see Malaysia Airline planes on the tarmac and none from other countries.

A: Why? That is a very good question. You know, we used to have British Airways flying here. We used to have Virgin Atlantic. We used to have Air France. We used to have All Nippon Airways. We used to have Northwest. Why? Because, they have all been lured by Singapore and we have sat down and instead of saying ‘this is a national crisis [bangs table] and we need to be better at marketing and more aggressive’, we thought ‘oh good — less competition for Malaysia Airlines.’

Q: Do you really think it is a crisis situation?

A: I think it is a crisis situation, absolutely. Because the stakes are so high now. We can’t afford for the tourism sector to falter. We can’t afford for trade..Malaysia is one of the few countries where trade is bigger than GDP. We need international trade. How are we going to get international trade if we don’t have connectivity. Indirectly, the number of flights also affect decisions about where businesses should locate. That’s why most people locate in Singapore rather than KL. Because it is more convenient. A lot of economic activity comes when you have connectivity. When Khazanah National did a study, they identified that the aviation sector has a 12 times multiplier effect on the economy. For every one ringgit of revenue that an airline generates, there is twelve ringgit of impact to the economy because travellers have to use ground transportation, catering and maintenance.

Q: Do you have a breakdown of how many transit passengers you carry?

A: It’s not numbers we carry directly but we have numbers from government statistics that we carry anywhere from 35 to 40 per cent transit passengers on long haul flights, especially Australia. What’s interesting is that the Malaysia Airlines number is higher which is not surprising as from here they have flights going to India, to Rome, Frankfurt, Amsterdam. Malaysia Airlines numbers are closer to 45 to 50 per cent. Frankly transit also helps the economy. They still buy stuff, they still fill up the plane. Changi’s transit is more than 50 per cent. Dubai’s transit number is 80 per cent.

Q: What other innovations are you looking at for AirAsia X?

A: Without going into specifics, one of the new things for AirAsia as a group that is huge this year is a migration to a next generation booking engine. When that gets done, we’ll be able to introduce a whole range of new things that we are currently constrained from doing because of IT.

Q: Are you happy with the progress of the new LCCT?

A: I haven’t seen progress. I think it is important that a commitment was made by Malaysia Airports to get it ready by 2011 and that is about as tight as we can possibly manage. Originally it was mid-2011 and now it is end-2011. Anything beyond that will be painful. Already we are struggling with parking space.

The wide body AirAsia X planes, sometimes we have to park them way on the other side of the airport and tow the plane here which takes up a lot of time and cost. As we add more planes, that exacerbates the problem.

Q: What other European cities are you eyeing?

A: It all depends on the planes. If we were to use existing planes, that means we have to make one stop in the Middle East. If we do one stop in the Middle East, for that same plane we can go three flights a week to Zurich or Manchester as opposed to seven flights a week to Sydney. That means you can carry 40,000 passengers a year or 110,000 passengers a year. You fly double the distance but not double the revenue. We lose out if we are told to fly to European countries until we get the A350. We’ve done our part. More than 50 per cent of AirAsia X flights are to new airports — Gold Coast, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Chengdu. We’ve pioneered a lot of routes.

Q: Do you plan to take up any of the 34 cities that have been offered to you?

A: No plans to take it up. It makes no economic sense. Does Maybank tell Hong Leong bank to go to South America so there is less competition?

By Lee Wei Lian

Malaysian Insider

AirAsia Gets Approval To Carry On Labuan Captive Insurer Business

27 April 2010

KUALA LUMPUR-- AirAsia Bhd's wholly-owned subsidiary AirAsia Corporate Services Ltd (AACSL) has received approval from the Labuan Financial Services Authority (FSA) to carry on Labuan captive insurer business.

AirAsia said AACSL, which was incorporated in Labuan, had received approval to carry on the captive insurance business in, from or through the Federal Territory of Labuan.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia Securities, it said the approval is subject to among others AACSL making a payment of the requisite licence fee to Labuan FSA, and the provision of evidence that a working fund of RM300,000 or its equivalent in any foreign currency has been deposited with a bank in Labuan.

Following the approval, AACSL will now be able to insure and reinsure all of the risks within the AirAsia Group, it added.

AirAsia said the primary purpose of establishing the Labuan captive insurance business was to provide access for the company to commercial insurance markets and provide flexibility in managing and retaining its own risks.

With the establishment of the business, AirAsia said it will have a choice of which risks and how much risk the company intends to retain within the group, thus simultaneously giving greater flexibility in managing its risks.

It said the business will have inherent tax and investment advantages and offered AirAsia an opportunity to set up a profit centre within its group following the exemption order to the Insurance Act 1996 by Labuan FSA.

This enables the Labuan captive insurance business to directly insure AirAsia's international aviation, maritime and liability risks.

AirAsia is also paying its insurance premium to the Labuan captive insurance business instead of paying through local insurers.

With enough fund, the business is expected to transfer some of its fund to AirAsia through the payment of dividends, it said.


Branding the F1 way

24 April 2010

THE world of Formula One (F1) is more than just about fast cars and cutting-edge technology. With a viewership of 600 million people per race, it provides a fantastic platform for businesses to showcase their brands around the globe.

But in your typical business environment, businesses only want to be associated with the best and in the case of F1, its the big, established teams like Ferrari, McLaren or Mercedes that often get the upper hand in the war to secure sponsors.

But F1 is a tough business and even the elite have fallen on hard times. Last year’s global economic meltdown saw renowned teams – BMW, Honda and Toyota – pulling out as the financial strain proved too much to handle.

But the economy has picked up and this year’s F1 season saw the inclusion of three new names, namely Lotus Racing, Virgin Racing and Hispania Racing F1 Team (HRT) competing for the most coveted prize in motorsports.

Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes believes Malaysia can bank on the success of its own F1 team.

Hoping for Lotus Racing to bloom

Taking a cue from other established F1 teams, Lotus Racing team principal Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes wants to monetise the Lotus brand by leveraging on the F1 brand. He believes Malaysia as a country can then bank on the success of its own F1 team.

“Just look at what Ferrari has done for Italy and Mercedes for Germany,” he tells StarBizWeek during the 2010 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix (GP) earlier this month. Although he declines to disclose figures, he insists that running an F1 team is “not a waste of money”.

“I don’t think it’s a waste of money or else I won’t be doing it,” he counters.

Colin Kolles ... ‘F1 is an interesting business platform and the best way to present your business.’

According to Fernandes, who is also the group chief executive of low-cost carrier AirAsia Bhd, there are plans to leverage the popularity of Lotus Racing as an F1 brand to produce spin-off products. It recently launched its own energy drink, LR8.

“(There will be) more merchandise, joint ventures and business ideas in the pipeline,” he says. The team has also engaged in various cross-promotional efforts with AirAsia. “AirAsia made a lot of money selling Lotus T-shirts,” he adds.

Lotus Racing is operated by the 1Malaysia F1 Racing Team, a privately funded project, with Tune Group and Naza Group as co-owners.

Tune Group is jointly owned by Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, who is also a director of 1Malaysia F1 Racing Team. The other directors of 1Malaysia F1 Racing Team are Naza group executive chairman SM Nasarudin SM Nasimuddin and Zahri Ismail.

Its drivers are former Toyota F1 driver Jarno Trulli of Italy and Heikki Kovalainen of Finland, previously with McLaren.

Fernandes says the team’s long-term target, just like that of any other team in the circuit, is to eventually win the F1 crown.

“We want to become world champions one day. I didn’t start here to become last. It’s going to be hard but if I told you six months ago we were going to have an F1 team, you would have said it was impossible.”

He declines to comment about team sponsorship deals and if the team is in talks to secure more sponsors.

Recently, it was reported that the team expects four more major sponsors to come on board this season. Other unconfirmed reports also claim that Lotus Racing has inked a deal with Brazilian oil company Petrobras.

Different approaches needed

John Booth calls F1 ‘the biggest show in the world.’

To HRT Team principal Colin Kolles, F1 is an “interesting business platform” and “the best way to present your business.”

Kolles realises the hardship of being a new team – an unknown brand in a league of established ones and the difficulty in attracting sponsors.

But he says that the task of securing sponsorships is never easy for any team, adding that both new and established teams need to approach the situation differently.

“You might attract small partners that see you as a young challenger. This might fit their marketing strategy, where it might be easier to get a sponsor than an established team,” he argues.

“Big companies would like to be associated with big brands and championship-winning teams like Ferrari and McLaren. Obviously this is a different strategy.”

However, Kolles concedes that surviving in the business is the biggest challenge for a new team. “It’s a tough business. I think a lot of people are not really aware how hard it is. For the new teams, what’s most important is to establish themselves.”

Kolles declines to disclose the team’s budget for the season but says it is less than those of the established outfits.

The Spain-based HRT team began as a collaboration between Adrian Campos of Campos Racing and Enrique Rodríguez of Meta Image, under the name of Campos Meta. In February, majority shareholder Jose Ramon Carabante took over full control of the team from Campos, and the team was renamed.

The team’s drivers are India’s Karun Chandhok and Brazil’s Bruno Senna, the nephew of former world champion, the late Ayrton Senna.

Virgin territory

Virgin Racing initially started out as Manor Grand Prix, a tie-up between Manor Motorsport and Wirth Research, and were initially granted entry in F1 as Manor GP.

However, as part of sponsorship arrangement that saw tycoon Richard Branson’s Virgin Group acquiring 80% of the team, the racing outfit became known as Virgin Racing.

Team principal John Booth says being associated with a brand like the Virgin Group was a big advantage. “Our partnership with Virgin helps tremendously. They’re one of the world’s most well-known brands,” he says.

The Virgin Group is a British-branded venture capital conglomerate organisation, with its core business areas being travel, entertainment and lifestyle.

Booth calls F1 “the biggest show in the world” and feels privileged to be part of “13 of the world’s best” to be competing this season.

Booth has been involved in the motorsport arena for over 30 years, but when he made the transition to F1, he knew it was an all-new ball game. “When I was in F3 (Formula 3), we used carried about three tonnes of equipment with us to each race. In F1, we transport about 26 tonnes of equipment. You can certainly imagine how much Ferrari and McLaren carry!”

Based in Britain, the team has over 150 employees. Its drivers are Lucas di Grassi of Brazil and former Toyota F1 driver, Timo Glock of Germany.

Keeping the wheels turning

So far, after four races this season, all of the new teams have yet to score points. The13th place finish by Lotus Racing’s Kovalainen at the Australian GP last month is the highest placing among the newcomers.

Interestingly, when the three new teams were asked whether they benchmark against each other or against the established outfits, all have different targets.

Kolles says because HRT is a new team, its target is to compete against “the new guys”.

Booth, however, says Virgin Racing benchmarks itself against both the new and established teams. “It’s both,” he adds. “Our short-term target is to benchmark against the new teams, but we also have a long-term goal where we want to compete against the best.”

Fernandes says Lotus Racing aims to compete against the big teams right from the beginning. “We set our standards high, just like we did with AirAsia. We didn’t benchmark ourselves against the small guys. We set out to compete against the best in the world.

“You’ve got to benchmark yourself against the best, otherwise don’t bother being in it.”

by Eugene Mahalingam

The Star

Airasia love Phuket

22 April 2010

Thai AirAsia CEO Tassapon Bijileveld (right) presented a model aircraft to Phuket Governor Wichai Phraisa-ngop at last year's launch of the airline's Phuket Air Hub.
Thai AirAsia CEO Tassapon Bijileveld (right) presented a model aircraft to Phuket Governor Wichai Phraisa-ngop at last year's launch of the airline's Phuket Air Hub.

PHUKET: Given its penchant for quickly fleeing the scene by abandoning routes (such as Phuket-Perth and Phuket-Singapore) when business turns bad, and following notorious fare hikes on routes into Phuket earlier this month, THAI Airways has exposed itself to disenchantment across a wide swath of Phuket's resident market.

And now the island resort province has an increasingly credible suitor – Thai AirAsia (TAA) – which appears hell bent on grabbing a bigger piece of Thailand's second most important air travel market (after Bangkok).

The Bangkok Post reports today that TAA, which established a permanent Air Hub in Phuket five months ago, will increase services on three domestic routes in Thailand beginning on June 1 – this, in spite of declining travel demand caused by local political unrest, sluggish economic conditions and the 'low-season' factor.

Services will be doubled to twice daily on the Phuket-Chiang Mai and Bangkok-Ubon Ratchathani routes, and to daily flights (from four times a week) on the Phuket-Udon Thani route.

In celebration of the increased frequencies, TAA is offering low fare tickets, starting from 499 baht all-inclusive, for the one-way trip on these sectors until May 2. The tickets are valid for travel between June 1 and Feb 13 next year.

AirAsia marketing manager Chuenjit Chotewittayakul told the Phuket Gazette two weeks ago that AirAsia's Phuket Hub has expanded significantly, now offering direct, round-trip services to five international destinations – Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Medan and Ho Chi Minh City – as well as direct domestic flights to Chiang Mai, Udon Thani and Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

“We will offer more flights in the future and plan to launch services from Phuket to India this year, she said, adding that "Thai AirAsia expects to service five million passengers in 2010.”

Amid these developments, THAI Airways, citing 'fuel price increases', hiked the price of an 'economy' class ticket on the Bangkok-Phuket route by 46%, while the fare between Chiangmai and Phuket suffered a whopping 64% rise. Both fares became effective on April 1.

With TAA continually adding new aircraft, new destinations and new-age fares to its "AirAsia Loves Phuket" promise, one might easily be seduced into speculation over what new slogan, if any, the national airline might employ as an antidote.

Phuket Gazette

AirAsia X Launches Two Special Flights For Stranded Passengers In Malaysia And UK

21 April 2010

KUALA LUMPUR-- AirAsia X, a low cost long-haul airline, launched the first of its two special flights for passengers stranded in Malaysia and United Kingdom (UK) due to the closure of European airspace, caused by volcanic ash clouds from Iceland.

The special flight, D7 2006, left Kuala Lumpur with 286 passengers onboard at 2pm Malaysian time and scheduled to arrive in London at 9pm, UK time, said AirAsia in a statement issued on Wednesday.

AirAsia said the special D7 2006 flight was the first AirAsia X flight to London after British airspace reopened at 5am Malaysian time today.

The statement said the second special flight, D7 2007, will depart from London at 3pm tomorrow and scheduled to arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 11am on Friday.

"Our guests are our priority, and we're committed to helping them get home to their families and back to work at the soonest possible time," said AirAsia Group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes in the statement.

AirAsia X flies from/to the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Sepang and London's Stansted Airport.


AirAsia hands business to Mindshare

KUALA LUMPUR - AirAsia has handed its media business to Mindshare after a four-way pitch that involved Zenith, MPG and incumbent Carat.

A press statement from AirAsia said that the agency was appointed "for its synergy and strength of its global network, supported by its holding company, GroupM, which is similar to AirAsia’s brand presence worldwide."

According to this statement Mindshare "beat the other three for its outstanding creative ideas, exceptional value, global brand fit and support."

Kathleen Tan, regional head of commercial at Air Asia said that the airline believes that the media agency shares similar global traits with AirAsia.

"As AirAsia is fast expanding its route network across Asia and beyond with strong brand presence internationally, Mindshare, working with the GroupM network definitely has the right fit as they are globally strong and carries the strong media clout we need. This would ensure that the airline will be given the global top level commitment from the agency with exceptional creative expertise. We look forward to working with Mindshare Malaysia and its global network supported by GroupM in our commercial endeavors and are thrilled that they met our exact requirements during the pitch.”

Ashutosh Srivastava, regional head of Mindshare for Asia-Pacific said that the agency is "delighted to get the opportunity to partner Air Asia in growing its business."

"Air Asia is already an iconic brand in Asia and is aggressively building itself up as a global brand. The Tune group is an equally dynamic brand and rapidly expanding its footprint at this stage. We look forward to combining the best of our talent, creativity and technology to help them create breakthrough communications solutions”.

AirAsia which started operations in 2001 has grown its fleet from 2 to 92 aircraft to date and carried over 85 million passengers within a span of eight years.

The airline will embark on a regional media agency review following the success of this appointment in phases through the next few months.

AirAsia announced a pitch process in December. In an exclusive interview given to Media in December, AirAsia's head of commercial, Kathleen Tan, revealed that the budget carrier would be putting its media account up for pitch in 2010.
According to sources, the four agencies were briefed by the client from 3 to 5 March.
AirAsia concluded its last media review in May 2008 when it split the business between Carat and OMG, with a bigger share of the account going to Carat. It is believed that OMG later parted ways with the brand.
In January this year, AirAsia and Qantas Airways subsidiary, Jetstar, formed a historic alliance aimed at lowering costs and generating more competitive fares for travellers in this region.
The budget carrier's fiercest rival, Malaysia Airlines, concluded a high-profile review process in December last year and appointed Starcom to handle its media, displacing incumbent Mindshare.

By Asiya Bakht


10,000 passengers still left stranded

20 April 2010

SEPANG:About 10,000 Europe-bound passengers may still be stranded as AirAsia X has cancelled its flights to London while Malaysia Airlines had no available flights to the continent yesterday.

The AirAsia X flight to Stansted, scheduled to depart from the low-cost carrier terminal here at 2pm yesterday, was cancelled due to fears of a new eruption of the volcano under the Eyjafjallajökull glacier in Iceland.

In a statement issued yesterday, MAS said it had to cancel 46 flights between April 15 and yesterday, leaving 14,000 passengers stranded.

However, the airline had flown three times to Rome since then.

MAS flights from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to London, Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt, and vice versa, were affected when flights were cancelled after ash and other particles spread across Europe from the volcano which began erupting last week.

MAS, however, is planning to resume scheduled flights to London, Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt today. Its operations director, Captain Azharuddin Osman, said the airline was also looking at mounting additional flights to the four destinations tomorrow Scheduled flights to Rome are not affected and will operate as normal. MAS flies thrice weekly to Rome, on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

“However, passengers are advised to be mindful that the flights will be subject to airspace and airports being open as the situation remains fluid,” said Azharuddin. AirAsia X operations head Moses Devanayagam said yesterday’s flight to Stansted had been planned when the airline received approval on Monday night from British authorities to fly into UK airspace.

“The flight was planned, in addition to our regular scheduled flights, when we were informed that Stansted Airport may be fully operational by 1900 (UK time) Tuesday.

“However, the situation changed overnight due to variable changes in the ash cloud, and we are not able to determine when Stansted Airport will be open to commercial aviation traffic,” he said in a statement.

Devanayagam said with the latest developments and after reviewing all possible options, the airline determined that it would not be able to operate either the scheduled flights or the additional flight.

“We are monitoring the situation closely and will re-commence our flights to London once Stansted Airport reopens and UK airspace conditions improve,” he said.

He said since the airspace restrictions were enforced by the UK National Air Traffic Services, AirAsia X had been unable to operate 12 international flights between Stansted and Kuala Lumpur. Meanwhile, Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said visas for foreigners stranded here would be extended by a month.

by Alang Bendahara and Maizatul Ranai


AirAsia offers special promotion for affected Europe-bound travellers

20 April 2010

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia has launched a special promotion for Europe-bound passengers stranded because of the volcanic ash that has disrupted flights to Europe.

In a statement Tuesday, AirAsia said affected passengers of any airlines could opt for its RM99 (excluding taxes and fees) promotion to any Asean destination.

The promotion is from Tuesday to Sunday, and for a travel period from Tuesday until May 23.

"Guests will only need to show their flight tickets at any AirAsia sales office or AirAsia sales counter to enjoy this promotion to any Asean destinations (except Myanmar) departing from Malaysia and Singapore," it said.

AirAsia Group regional head of commercial Kathleen Tan said this was AirAsia’s small contribution and offer for affected passengers.

"We came up with this special campaign to offer these stranded passengers a special fare to an alternative holiday destination in Asean," she said.

AirAsia's Asean destinations include Bali, Jakarta, Bangkok, Singapore, Siam Reap, Hanoi, Phuket and Krabi, among others.

On Monday, Airasia Group CEO Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes was reported saying that the airlines would offer flight tickets for as low as RM99 to any destination in the world served by the airline.

The Star

Tune Group files trademark infringement suit

20 April 2010

PETALING JAYA: Tune Group has filed a suit against a company known as “I Tune Management (M) Sdn Bhd” for trademark infringement.

Tune Group, which operates AirAsia and Tune Hotels, is seeking an injunction to restrain the company from passing off any of its business as that of the group’s.

The group also wants the company to remove the name “Tune”, regardless of the prefix “I”, from its registration with the Registrar of Companies and take away the word “tune” from its website name “”.

Lawyer George Miranda, who represented the group, filed the suit at the Kuala Lumpur High Court registry yesterday.

Tune Group is also set to take legal action against other companies it has identified for infringing on the “Tune” trademarks.

The group said it had received numerous enquiries from the public asking whether “I Tune Management (M) Sdn Bhd”, which was incorporated last year, was affiliated with the group.

“Upon further investigation, Tune Group discovered that the company was marketing products and services using the trademark ‘i Tune’ which is in bright red with the word ‘Tune’ slanting upwards from left to right,” it said in a statement yesterday.

“This has a strong resemblance to Tune Group’s ‘Tune’ trademarks.”

Miranda said there was “a high likelihood” of confusion among the public due to the similarity between the two trademarks.

“Furthermore, I Tune Management (M) Sdn Bhd’s act of using ‘i Tune’ as their trademark for identical or overlapping goods and services, namely travel packages and hotel reservations offered through its website, usurps Tune Group’s existing goodwill and reputation in similar industries,” he said.

The Star

Low-cost flight to Bangkok

19 April 2010

Calcutta is scheduled to get a fourth daily direct flight to Bangkok by next year.

Air Asia, a Malaysia-based low-cost carrier, plans to start flights between Calcutta and Bangkok soon. “We have approached the civil aviation ministry in India and expect to start operations by the middle of next year,” Tony Fernandes, the group chief executive officer of Air Asia, said in Kuala Lumpur.

The three existing daily direct flights between Calcutta and Bangkok are operated by Jet Airways, Thai Airways and Kingfisher. Air India Express, too, operates flights to Bangkok three days a week while Biman Bangladesh and GMG Airlines fly on the route through Dhaka.

Fernandes thinks Air Asia will have an advantage over Indian operators flying to Bangkok because of its “excellent” network. “We have connections from Bangkok to various other southeast Asian destinations, including Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, which others don’t have,” he pointed out.

Fernandes also announced plans to spend $200 million for setting up budget hotels in India in the next two years. One such hotel may come up in Calcutta.

Travel industry sources said 800 people on an average flew to Bangkok from Calcutta daily. “For the past several decades, the sector has been drawing the maximum number of tourists from this region,” said Anil Punjabi, the chairman (east) of the Travel Agents Federation of India.

The Telegraph

Lotus boss offers F1 rivals solution to European travel nightmare

18 April 2010

World champion Jenson Button won a rain-hit Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday, but the burning question is how Formula One's 12 teams will get their sizeable loads of personnel and equipment back to Europe for the next race amid the region's ongoing travel chaos.

The teams begin packing up as soon as events finish, some even before the checkered flag falls, and that has been the case in Shanghai -- leaving just the problem of what to do after that.

Lotus team boss Tony Fernandes has offered his rivals a possible solution: fly to Kuala Lumpur on his Air Asia airline, and then into Britain's Stansted airport once the volcanic ash from Iceland has cleared from the skies.

The Malaysian entrepreneur, who resurrected the old Lotus Racing name to bring the team back to F1 this year, announced the plan on his Twitter page after Sunday's race.

F1 standings following fourth race of 2010 in Shanghai

"Many of the teams flying on airasia and then flying back on special charter on airasia. Sauber, Ferrari, Toro Rosso, Renault, Mercedes," he wrote.

After races in Bahrain, Australia, Malaysia and now China, the F1 circuit has a three-week break before the start of the European season in Spain on May 9.

Lotus spokesman Tom Webb said that the extra time should mean most teams will be ready to start in Barcelona, despite needing to make upgrades and other improvements to their cars.

"While the four fly-away races require a huge amount of freight to be flown around, in Europe most teams have motor homes and trucks at their factories that are driven to the race venues," he told CNN, which is one of the team's sponsors.

"But everything in Formula One is planned to the last minute, so obviously the timeframes are going to be a lot tighter. And part of the break is giving the guys a bit of a rest -- most of the crews have been away from home for over a month now."

Drivers to sidestep European travel nightmare

Several drivers indicated after the Shanghai race that they would not be immediately returning to Europe anyway.

Button, who returned to the top of the drivers' standings after winning by 1.5 seconds, said that he was taking a break.

"I was always going to go away for a few days, relaxing after this one, but I'm hopefully going to be heading back to Europe at the end of the week, so we will see about that. We might all be driving back, which would be fun," he told the official F1 Web site.

His McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton finished second despite an early run-in with Red Bull's pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel in the pit lane as both changed tires to combat the wet conditions.

"I've got a sponsor appearance in South Africa, so I've got to travel there and then go back to Europe," the English driver said.

Teams fear a lengthy wait

Britain-based McLaren were hoping that their return home would not be delayed by more than a few days, the UK Press Association reported.

"I am not so much worried about our people as we will find a way home, but we have to get the cars back and we have not had any word yet from the freights," team boss Martin Whitmarsh told PA.

"The cars have been away for some time and we are looking forward to getting our equipment back in the factory as quick as we can, making sure we service all the cars properly. That could be a bit chaotic if we don't get the freight back.

"If we lose three or four days we can live with it, but if we lose the cars for a week and beyond it becomes challenging."

Schumacher struggles in Shanghai

Nico Rosberg finished third for the second successive race to again outperform veteran Mercedes teammate Michael Schumacher, who was a disappointing 10th.

"I'd always planned to go to Thailand, so I'm going to go to Thailand for a week and then back to Europe after that," the younger German said.

Ferrari had mixed results as Fernando Alonso finished fourth, with Felipe Massa back in ninth after losing time when his teammate passed him going into the pit lane.

Red Bull's drivers once again failed to translate their qualifying dominance into race results as Vettel finished sixth and Mark Webber eighth.

The revived Renault team again did well with Robert Kubica placing fifth to be seventh overall on 40 points, while Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov completed his first race in F1 to be seventh.


AirAsia sets Kota Kinabalu-HK direct service

18 April 2010

AirAsia will start direct service from Kota Kinabalu to Hong Kong starting June 1 this year, further expanding its international connectivity from East Malaysia.

To celebrate the introduction of the new route, AirAsia will be offering all-in-fares for Kota Kinabalu Hong Kong from as low as RM139* (HKD299) one way.

Booking starts from 12th to 18th April 2010, for the travel period from 1st June 2010 to 13th February 2011. Promotional seats are limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis and made exclusively online via and

AirAsia launched its first route connecting Hong Kong from Kuala Lumpur in 2008 with only one flight daily. Due to the overwhelming demand from travellers to and from Hong Kong, the airline increased its frequency for this route to three flights daily within the span of two years.

Following its successful launch, AirAsia continued to boost its international connectivity to Hong Kong by launching more new destinations from its hubs regionally which include Bangkok (two flights daily), Phuket (one flight daily), Penang (four flights weekly) and the latest addition from Kota Kinabalu-Hong Kong (one flight daily).

This brings AirAsia’s total number of weekly flights to Hong Kong from the hubs to 53. Ms Kathleen Tan, Regional Head of Commercial AirAsia group said: “With the presence of growing Chinese ethnic population in Kota Kinabalu who are willing to spend more on leisure and a growing interest in East Malaysia to explore metropolitan cities like Hong Kong, we believe that this is a strategic move to create interest and stimulate tourism demand for both cities."

By Edu H. Lopez

manilla bulletin publishing corporation

MAS and AirAsia ground more planes due to Iceland’s ash cloud

18 April 2010

PETALING JAYA: More Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia X flights to Europe may have to be cancelled as airports in the continent remain closed.

Both airlines have already cancelled all flights to London, Amster­dam, Paris and Frankfurt since Thursday due to the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland.

MAS director of operations Captain Azharuddin Osman said based on current weather conditions and reports, there was a possibility that today’s flights would also be affected.

“As such, before proceeding to the airport, customers should call the MAS call centre 1300-88-3000 (within Malaysia) or 603-7843 3000 (outside Malaysia) for the latest flight information,” he said in a statement posted on MAS’ website.

Captain Azharuddin said passengers of the affected flights could make changes on their original destination by flying into Rome instead but this would be subject to seat availability.

He said MAS was also giving affected passengers three other options – a full refund, exchange of tickets for future flights or re-booking on the next available flight.

Those booked on these flights are advised to watch out for updates on under the tab “Book/Flight Status”.

AirAsia X said its flights between Kuala Lumpur and London Stansted starting today would be subjected to the opening of the UK airspace.

“AirAsia X will contact guests on the affected sector with further instructions.

“We will also be updating our website with the latest developments regularly,” it said in a statement.

The airlines had cancelled its flights D7 2008 (Kuala Lumpur to London Stansted) and D7 2009 (London Stansted to Kuala Lumpur) scheduled on Thursday, Friday and yesterday.

By Zuhrin Azam Ahmad

The Star

AirAsia X wins rights to Seoul

16 April 2010

It may launch inaugural flight in October to coincide with 50 years of diplomatic relations

PETALING JAYA: After a tough fight that lasted almost a year, AirAsia X won rights to fly seven times a week to Seoul, a core route that the airline had been pinning its hopes on for a long time.

AirAsia X has not decided on a firm date to begin mounting the flights as a lot of groundwork needs to be done but it may be looking to launch the inaugural flight sometime in October to coincide with when the South Korean premier is in Malaysia to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between South Korea and Malaysia.

AirAsia X bosses are thrilled with the Government’s change of heart in acceding to their request and hope they will, in the same manner, one day be flying to Sydney.

»We will keep pushing for Sydney rights because there is a demand out there« AZRAN OSMAN-RANI

Seoul and Sydney are among the core routes that the airline hopes to secure besides Tokyo, Jeddah and several others.

“We will keep pushing for Sydney rights because there is a demand out there. It is sad that many Malaysians are still flying to Sydney via Singapore,” AirAsia X chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani told StarBiz.

The long-haul low-cost carrier has rights to fly 34 non-core routes but Azran reckons flying to these destinations will not help the airline or the country bring in the passenger traffic that is needed for KL International Airport to stand out against its rivals in Bangkok and Singapore.

“We are not sure yet when we will fly to Seoul as there are so many details to be worked out,” Azran said.

Currently, Malaysia Airlines and Korean Air ply the KL-Seoul route with 12 weekly flights each and with AirAsia X’s new flights the connectivity increases to 31 flights each week, which is similar to the 31 flights mounted from Singapore to Seoul. From Bangkok there are 58 weekly flights to Seoul.

By B.K.Sidhu

The Star

AirAsia Group CEO named Officier of the Legion d’Honneur

15 April 2010

On Wednesday, AirAsia Group CEO Dato’ Sri Dr. Tony Fernandes was conferred the title of Officier of the Legion d’Honneur by the government of France for his outstanding contributions to the aviation industry.

Mr. Dominique Bussereau, Secretary of State for Transport of France, conferred the title on Tony in a ceremony held in Paris and attended by some of the biggest names in European business.

Officier of the Legion d’ Honneur is the highest rank of honor that the government of France can award to a non-French citizen. The Legion d’ Honneur was established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to recognize outstanding service to France.

AirAsia has contributed largely to the French and European economies by supporting the European-owned and Toulouse-based Airbus, an EADS company. AirAsia has placed firm orders of Airbus aircraft including 175 A320, 25 A330 and 10 A350 aircraft. AirAsia also has an option to purchase 50 more A320 and five more A350 aircraft.

AirAsia uses Airbus aircraft extensively for its flights. It has an all-Airbus fleet for its Malaysia-based operations. Its Thailand and Indonesia-based operations will also have all-Airbus fleets within this year.

AirAsia, which has hubs in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, has democratized travel in the ASEAN region. It connects all 10 ASEAN capitals and more cities with “sky bridges”, linking and benefiting countless communities. By promoting travel in the region through low fares, an extensive network of destinations and great flight frequencies, it has helped the region achieve economic growth.

Tony Fernandes co-founded AirAsia and has led the airline in its transformation from a loss-making Malaysian airline into the ASEAN airline that it is now. AirAsia, Asia’s leading and largest low-cost carrier, also connects the ASEAN region with China, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Australia. Through its low-cost long-haul affiliate AirAsia X, it connects the region with more destinations in Asia (China, Taiwan and soon India), Australia and Europe (through the United Kingdom).

Under the leadership of Fernandes, in only eight years, AirAsia grew its fleet from two aircraft to 92, its staff from 250 to 7,000, and its routes from 1 to more than 132. It has to date flown more than 85 million passengers.


Aviation body wants VietJet Air to be genuinely local

14 April 2010

VietNamNet Bridge – A tentative plan by VietJet Aviation Joint-stock Company (Vietjet Air) to operate under the new brand of Vietjet AirAsia will most likely be barred as the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) wants it to bear a purely Vietnamese name.

Lai Xuan Thanh, deputy director general of CAAV, said Vietjet Air should not develop the brand Vietjet AirAsia that looks exactly like an arm of Asia’s leading low-cost carrier AirAsia that has a stake in the local carrier. Only the word "Vietjet" is accepted.

CAAV in a new document sent to local air carriers but targeting Vietjet Air said they should operate as a truly local carrier with their own brands and logos to avoid any problem as happened to Jetstar Pacific.

Thanh told the Daily on the phone on Monday about the concern after CAAV sent Document 1064/CHK-VTHK to domestic airlines to warn them against using and promoting the brand and logo of a foreign airline for their marketing and flights.

"Vietjet Air must be a domestic airline and create its own logo," Thanh said, adding that Vietjet Air should not be considered and mistaken as an airline in Vietnam under the Malaysia-headquartered carrier when it operates as Vietjet AirAsia.

Last week, leaders of Vietjet Air and AirAsia said after signing a strategic partnership agreement that Vietjet Air would operate as a Vietnam-based budget airline under the tentative trade name of Vietjet AirAsia. This carrier plans to commence services from August this year.

However, Thanh of CAAV said Vietjet Air had not been licensed to operate as Vietjet AirAsia. He explained that AirAsia’s acquisition of a 30% stake in Vietjet Air did not mean it would fly under the brand and logo of the Malaysian airline.

A similar problem happened to Jetstar Pacific in November last year when Minister of Transport Ho Nghia Dung told this Vietnamese low-cost carrier to scrap the logo of Australia’s carrier Jetstar Airways characterized by the word Jet and the orange star on its aircraft because this misled people as they might misunderstand the local airline with the Australian carrier.

As a result, "Jetstar Pacific was now developing its own logo and brand," Thanh said, adding that "otherwise it will not be granted the right to fly on new routes".

Also, this carrier has been ordered to clarify how to manage its fare revenue through the website In the above-mentioned document, CAAV also dictates that a foreign airline is not allowed to control business, revenue and profit of a Vietnamese airline via the only website they use.

"We want to look into whether a foreign carrier counts on a website to decide revenue and profit of a local company," Thanh explained.

Thanh said a local airline is allowed to sell fares and services via the website of a foreign carrier if it is able to prove that its revenue is not manipulated by its foreign partner.

"This is the point that matters us most," Thanh said. He acknowledged that a local carrier sharing the website with its foreign partner was still new in Vietnam, referring to the website, on which passengers can book seats on the flights operated by Jetstar Airways and Jetstar-brand airlines including Jetstar Pacific.

Airline experts said the revenue of Jetstar Pacific was hardly controlled by its foreign partner as up to 80% of its fares were booked at ticketing offices and agents of the local airline, and the rest online. So, the majority of the revenue goes directly to the budget of Jetstar Pacific.


Zulfahmi makes AirAsia-SIC debut in Qatar GP

14 April 2010

KUCHING: Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin made his debut for Team AirAsia-Sepang International Circuit in the Qatar Grand Prix 125cc race at Losail International Circuit in Doha on Sunday, completing the 18-lap race in 21st position out of 26 riders on the grid.

BAPTISM OF FIRE: Zulfahmi in action on his 125cc Aprilia.

BAPTISM OF FIRE: Zulfahmi in action on his 125cc Aprilia.

In a press release issued in Sepang, Zulfahmi’s team manager Fiorenzo Caponera said he was pleased with his charge’s debut.

“It was his first race and his very first night race. Our target for him is to finish the race and he did it. Throughout the weekend, he had exceeded our expectation, especially with his qualifying results,” said Caponera.

He stressed that it was important for Zulfahmi to complete the races and that would be the priority for now.

“This is the first time on race day that Zulfahmi is riding on an Aprilia and we need to gather as much data as possible in order to analyse his strengths and weaknesses.

“With all the information, we will then be able to guide him and work on his weak points as we need to get the best out of him as soon as we can.

“He has very minimal experience on the 125cc machine compared with his teammate Sturla Fagerhaug who has two years’ experience racing in the Red Bull Rookies Cup,” said Caponera.

Despite positive comments from Caponera, 18-year-old Zulfahmi was a little disappointed with his finish.

“I was hoping to collect points but it was a bit difficult as I have yet to be familiar with the bike’s characteristics, plus the other riders have plenty of experience. Nevertheless, I am not discouraged. I enjoy the challenge and I really look forward to the next race in Japan,” said the Selangor-born rider.

On what he learned from his first race, Zulfahmi said: “I was over anxious in the beginning of the race and that affected my rhythm as the race progressed. Hence, I need to develop ways to keep calm and focused.

“I need to work on my mental strength as well, as MotoGP is a gruelling sport which demands complete psychological prowess.”

Before Zulfahmi went on the grid, AirAsia Group CEO Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes spoke to him on the phone.

He gave Zulfahmi a few words of encouragement and wished him the best of luck for his very first race.

When contacted, Fernandes said: “The MotoGP will definitely present tough challenges to Zulfahmi, but we have all the faith in him. Despite finishing in 21st place in Qatar, he displayed true grit and the hunger for victory.”

“He is a very talented rider, and I am confident that he will overcome all challenges and be a serious contender in no time.

“Asean talents like Zulfahmi have the technical competency and the mindset to compete, and with opportunities like this, they can definitely take on the best in the world,” he added.

AirAsia partners Sepang International Circuit (SIC) in forming Team AirAsia-Sepang International Circuit to showcase Asean talents on the world stage.

The team believe Asean has a lot of untapped motorsports talents, but limited opportunities are available to help them shine. This joint effort hopes to provide the platform for these talents to unleash their potential.

AirAsia is also the title sponsor of the 2010 AirAsia British Grand Prix at Silverstone, bringing back MotoGP to the circuit after 24 years away.

AirAsia’s sponsorship is set to deliver added verve to the sport by lending its successful, innovative and passionate traits.

Moreover, as a fast-rising global brand, the airline’s association with MotoGP is expected to stir further interest in the sport not just among motorsports fans but the wider community throughout Asia.