AirAsia X, the long haul subsidiary of low-cost carrier AirAsia, announced with much fanfare in London the launching of a five-time weekly service between Kuala Lumpur and London Stansted airport. Flights will start on March 11 with fares offered from as low as £99 (US$149) one-way.
AirAsia CEO Dato Tony Fernandes became visibly emotional when talking about the new flight: “I always dreamed to be one day able to offer affordable flights to London, being then fascinated by Freddie Laker and its Skybus. What we faced in the past such as SARS, opposition from monopoly airlines or fuel prices hike were worth the pain as we finally succeed to make this dream coming true: flying to Europe, and especially to London,” he said.
The Airbus A340 will offer 286 passengers capacity including 30 premium seats.
Looking at the future, AirAsia CEO remains upbeat. He forecasts that the new route could become a shuttle service with “a flight departing every four to five hours. It will then help us to further lower fare. Why not at £49 (US$72) one way,” he added.
Tony Fernandes is committed to making AirAsia a global brand. Twenty-three Airbus A330s are on order and up to two additional Airbus A340 could also be added.
The choice of London Stansted was obvious for Fernandes. “We picked Stansted not only because we got good financial conditions to come but also because of its excellent connectivity as it is linked to 160 cities throughout Europe,” he said. With its Kuala Lumpur hub offering flights to 86 destinations in Asia, with India soon to be included, Kuala Lumpur can be the pendant to Stansted as a low-cost gateway.
Asked if AirAsia is not deterred by the failure of Oasis Hong Kong, Fernandes replied: “Oasis did not offer any connection beyond Hong Kong and did not have this large network of connections to sustain its operation. Oasis lacked also the global appeal that AirAsia enjoys today as a global brand.”
Booking for the London route are began last month.