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Old 16th Aug 2006, 11:18
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ASIAN FROG
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: se asia
Posts: 214
New airline for AirAsia?
BOONSONG KOSITCHOTETHANA


"AirAsia group chief executive Tony Fernandes (left) and Thai AirAsia chief executive Tassapon Bijleveld pose with an A320 full flight simulator at the AirAsia Academy.

Sepang, Malaysia _ The budget airline AirAsia may set up another low-cost carrier (LCC) in Southeast Asia as it prepares to acquire 30 additional Airbus A320 jets to bring its fleet to 130 by 2012. AirAsia group chief executive Tony Fernandes hinted about the plans during a briefing on the launch earlier this month of Fly Asian Xpress (Fax) and the signing of a firm order contract in July for 40 A320 aircraft worth US$2.7 billion.

''We may set up another [airline] in another country in Southeast Asia. But I cannot say too much now,'' Mr Fernandes told the Bangkok Post.

However, he said it was ''very likely'' that AirAsia would exercise the options to purchase 30 additional A320s, the basic agreement reached in July with Airbus, for delivery between 2010 and 2012.

Fax, which began to fly Malaysia's domestic routes in Sabah and Sarawak on Aug 1, is the fourth member of the group, which already includes Thai AirAsia and Indonesia AirAsia, in addition to its flagship carrier in Malaysia, AirAsia Bhd.

The new airline was created to take over the domestic routes in Sabah and Sarawak from Malaysia Airlines which is cutting back loss-making local services.

Barely five years old, the airline group surpassed the 20-million passenger mark in June this year. It offers 2,450 weekly flights in the region spanning 11 countries covering Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Macau, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, Brunei and, recently, Burma, with 44 aircraft.

Mr Fernandes was optimistic about the growth potential of budget traffic demand in Southeast Asia that would support AirAsia's expansion.

For this year alone, he sees the LCC traffic surge by 15-20%, spurred by aggressive marketing by budget carriers and low fares being offered.

Also as part of its expansion, AirAsia on Monday officiated the launch of two Airbus 320 full-flight simulators, valued at $10 million each, as it geared up to prepare pilots, cabin crew and engineers for its fast-growing fleet of A320 jetliners.

Plans are afoot to procure another three A320 simulators at its AirAsia Academy, its new flight-training centre near the LCC Terminal, part of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The AirAsia chief noted that the group planned to retire its entire fleet of 737-300s, now numbered at 35, and replace them with brand-new A320s, configured to 180 seats, to make it an all-A320 fleet.

Commenting on last week's foiled London terror plot to blow up commercial airplanes, Mr Fernandes said the issue was unlikely to affect LCC traffic in the region.

''I don't think [there would be any effect]. We have been through so many terrors [and] the tsunami. We had Bali bombs right in our LCC territory. But we are doing better than ever in Bali.

''We have 500 million people in Asean and they are less worried about what's happening in the US or Europe. People still have to travel, they want to have holidays,'' he said.

However, Mr Fernandes stated that AirAsia still had to go on with aggressive marketing, offering low fares and a greater network to ward off outside factors from affecting future growth.

Regarding Airports of Thailand Plc's plan to set up a terminal dedicated for LCC at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Mr Fernandes did not see the Thai LCC terminal as competing with but rather complementing Kuala Lumpur's LCC terminal that opened earlier this year.

''They are different markets. The LCC terminal here won't really serve the larger part of the area that Thailand will. Thailand is further north, closer to China,'' he said.

''The LCC model is made for the three-hour radius. So from three hours, you can't cover many destinations from KL. The Thai LCC probably won't cover a lot of Indonesia. So each LCC terminal will have its strengths, creating more flights."

MAS an International local company, Air Asia a local International Company....
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