Malaysian airline says charges, visas hampering Japan plans


KUALA LUMPUR — Long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X said Sunday its plans to fly to Japan were on track despite hurdles including high airport charges and strict visa rules.

The carrier hopes to launch flights to Tokyo and major cities including Osaka and Kukuoka, chief executive Azran Osman Rani told AFP.

“We are still very optimistic and are on track with our plans to fly to Japan next year, but it is subject to so many things being fulfilled,” he said.

“We see a lot of potential and it is a market worth pursuing, but it depends on factors like a good airport deal or some progress on the visa rule,” he said.

Azran said it was difficult for Malaysians to get a Japanese visa.

“They require air tickets as part of the documents needed to process the visa and our tickets are non-refundable, so it is a setback for us,” he said.

AirAsia X was launched in January 2007 and is an affiliate of regional low-cost carrier AirAsia and Virgin Group. AirAsia and AirAsia X share common shareholders, including AirAsia founder and CEO Tony Fernandes.

British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has taken a 20 percent stake in the airline.

Azran said the airline was gearing up to fly to Britain early next year.

“We are looking forward to the Britain route which everyone is talking about,” he said.