Malaysia’s AirAsia to fly three new routes to India from December

By Samantha Tan Chiew Ting, NNN-Bernama,

Kuala Lumpur : Malaysia’s AirAsia, the region’s leading budget airline, will fly to three new destinations in India — Kochi, Trivandrum and Kolkata — come December in a move to expand its network in Southern India, according to the airline’s Group’s Regional Head of Commercial Kathleen Tan.

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She told Bernama here Monday that AirAsia was already flying to Tiruchirappalli in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu and would spread its wings to other destinations in southern India this year.

“Last year we were very busy working on 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 said.

Referring to AirAsia’s 48-hour sales promotion, she said it offered a 20 per cent discount on fares to all destinations for the travel period beginning Sept 28 until Nov 30. It covers all domestic and international destinations across 20 countries and over 130 routes, except London and Thailand.

Elaborating on the Indian sector, Tan said AirAsia was looking towards tapping destinations such as Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad while AirAsia’s long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X, would look at more distant destinations like Mumbai and Delhi.

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

Asked whether AsiaAsia was experiencing a dip in sales as a result of the global economic downturn, Tan said AirAsia was not very much affected because of 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 offers 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 and added 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 high air fare,” she said.

Tan said the low cost carrier had opened up the flying experience so that people tarvel not just 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 places such as Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Miri and Tawau.

“We see 2009 as a challenging year for the aviation industry. We removed the 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.

As for AirAsia’s sales target for 2010, Tan said the economy was recovering and people were 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 because of the A (H1N1) influenza pandemic and challenging economic factors,” she explained.

Asked about 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.”