Monday, November 14, 2005

AirAsia still eyeing Brunei

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Malaysia's low-cost carrier AirAsia said Sunday it soon hopes to fly to Brunei and to new destinations in Indonesia and Cambodia following the arrival of two new A320 Airbus aircraft in December.

"We are waiting for approval to fly to Brunei from Kuala Lumpur," AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes told AFP.

Fernandes, who was in Brunei earlier this year on invitation to speak at a business forum, had said that AirAsia hoped to start flying to Brunei from September 2005. According to reliable sources, the issue of frequency of flights was being ironed out at the time.

Fernandes said that AirAsia was also planning to establish flights to key historic sites in Southeast Asia in response to growing tourist demand.

"We will probably fly to Solo, Indonesia in January and are waiting for approval to fly to Siem Reap, Cambodia," he said. Both routes would originate in Kuala Lumpur.

The AirAsia chairman said the new A320 aircraft would have a capacity of 180 passengers.

AirAsia has ordered 60 A320s with an option for another 40 aircraft which will completely replace its current fleet of 28 single-aisle, 148-seat Boeing 737-300s.

The first will be delivered in December, with the process continuing through 2011, the company said.

Fernandes dismissed rival budget carriers in Singapore, saying: "We have huge networks. Kuala Lumpur will become a hub for low-cost carriers. Singapore can't come near us."

Asked about the chances of AirAsia flying to Singapore, he said: "Zero".

AirAsia has accused Singapore of discrimination after the city state last month awarded long sought-after landing rights to a rival Indonesian carrier.

While AirAsia reported its net profit for the year to June as RM111.63 million, budget airline Tiger Airways, a unit of the state-owned Singapore Airlines, and JetStar Asia, in which the government has a stake, are unprofitable, the Financial Times newspaper said last month.

AirAsia recently launched daily flights from Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok to Phnom Penh, a move that caters to the increasing number of tourists visiting Cambodia.

AirAsia was launched in December 2001 with just two aircraft and has since become a significant regional player, with its business model increasingly imitated by national carriers and a host of new low-cost entrants.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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