Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Brunei to fly AirAsia from July 11

By Azlan Othman

Following months of suspense, Air Asia, the leading and largest no frills airline in Asia, will finally spread its wings to Brunei.

In an interview, the no frill's airline Group CEO Dato Tony Fernandes, told the Bulletin yesterday that the first direct flight will touch down in Bandar Seri Begawan on July 11 and bookings are open from June 2.

"We have been given approval to operate one flight a day. The aircraft will depart from the low cost carrier terminal in Kuala Lumpur at 3pm and leave at 6pm from Brunei. We are very excited, at last," said Mr Fernandes.

Asked on the introductory fare, he said, they are looking at BND$39 during the booking period from June 2 to 30 using a Boeing. This is for travel from July 11.

The CEO said initially AirAsia will fly a Boeing but very soon will transfer to Airbus. "From June next year, all our flights will use Airbus. We now have six Airbuses and two will be delivered in July," he added.

Since September last year there were media reports on AirAsia beginning its daily flights to Brunei. Mr Fernandes said they were waiting for the regulatory approval.

"It is normal. Sometimes it takes a bit longer than expected for us to get landing rights. As a low cost business, many countries sometimes look at us in a different way. They also see benefits from us and that could be the cause. We are looking forward to the Brunei-Malaysian market and we are very excited," he added.

"We are always excited about new Asean destinations. Our whole aim is to unite Asean. Bringing Brunei as the seventh country in Asean means there are only two more Asean countries that we don't fly to namely Laos and Myanmar," said Mr Fernandes.

Mr Fernandes said flights would depart from the low cost carrier terminal just behind the satellite terminal of KLIA. There will be buses to the terminal from KL Central at the cost of RM$9. There are also inter-terminal bus links between KLIA main terminal and the satellite terminal.

The AirAsia CEO said his company was looking for office space in Brunei. "But we have about 12 travel agents selling our products in the country on top of Internet and phone bookings," he added.

"Many Malaysians want to come to Brunei. Just like any other destinations we go to, once we plan new flights, we bring a whole lot of new tourists," he said.

On future plans, he said, hopefully, we will start increasing our frequency (of flights) to Brunei and hope to operate two/three flights a day.

"We are also improving our connectivity, like from KL to other places. The other big news for us is we are opening hubs in Kuching and Kota Kinabalu and we will be flying inside East Malaysia where from Miri you can go to Kota Kinabalu, or between Sibu and KK as well as from Kuching to Brunei or from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei. We will also be bringing tourists from China, which Brunei Tourism can now handle," said Mr Fernandes.

We still have flights available from Labuan and Miri, which means Bruneians and Malaysians have a choice of three places, added the CEO.

On the possibility of flying to destinations like Thailand or Singapore from Brunei, he said, "Right now, we don't have the rights to do so unless we have the permission from the Brunei government to do that. Obviously, it has to be done by the Brunei national carrier. But we have flights from Miri to Johor Bahru from where they can connect to these destinations.

"Brunei has been a very special place to me, having been here many times. I received many letters from Bruneians and we kept promising that we will come to Brunei. We will have a big launch in Brunei," he said.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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