Thursday, November 25, 2010

AirAsia axes Brunei-KK flights

By Azaraimy HH

AirAsia has started the refunding process for customers who have booked to fly between Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) and Kota Kinabalu (KK) after January 3, 2011 as the popular budget air carrier will discontinue the daily flight after the third day of the New Year.

Just barely over a year from its maiden direct flight from KK to BSB, AirAsia has decided to discontinue the service.

In a telephone interview, an AirAsia official in Kuala Lumpur confirmed the decision has been made purely because of "commercial reasons", and did not elaborate further.

Meanwhile, Brunei Tourism chief, Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohammed, said he is somewhat saddened to hear the news. He said the budget carrier's direct flight between Brunei and KK has been benefiting tourists who want to travel or make stopovers between Brunei and KK, especially tourists from Australia and others.

"Regardless of the airlines ... it is sad to hear that they are stopping ... I hope there is something that Brunei Tourism can do but there isn't.

"Maybe I should call Tony (Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia) to find out, I was the one who helped him with the logistics ... you know ...

"Well, when they say it is for 'commercial reasons' then there is not much one could do ... because at the end of the day it will come down to dollars and cents."

He said, (in developing the tourism industry) connectivity is the key, which brings in tourists to the country. "If you break this connectivity; you are cutting your potential," he added.

He said there has been good traffic from Australia; they come to Brunei and then go to Kota Kinabalu.

The Bulletin asked the AisAsia official whether the 'commercial reasons' included rerouting or was it to benefit other routes, or due to discouraging passenger load factor between KK and BSB, but the official did not want to elaborate further.

In September 2009, AirAsia boosted its East Malaysia connectivity by launching services from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei Darussalam.

The establishment of the direct flight was hoped to stimulate travel, enhance connectivity and also tap into the existing market from Brunei and feed the traffic to AirAsia's vast network in the region and beyond, including routes serviced by AirAsia's long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X.

Kota Kinabalu is AirAsia's second and biggest hub after Kuala Lumpur. It serves nine domestic routes that include Penang, Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Sibu, Miri, Labuan, Tawau and Sandakan, while the international sectors are Macau, Shenzhen, Clark (Manila), Jakarta and Singapore.

Now with the discontinuation of AirAsia's BSB-KK flight, air passengers looking for budget travelling will have to look elsewhere as it will affect both local air travellers and foreign tourists, especially when Brunei is trying to promote itself as a gateway to Borneo.

However, AirAsia said its BSB-KL route remains strong, and as a result it had also added an additional flight recently.

AirAsia said it would continue to look for opportunities to expand the network and increase frequencies.

Only Royal Brunei Airlines will fly to KK from Brunei from January 4, 2011. RBA operates 14 flights a week to KK. It operates twice daily except on Wednesday (three flights) and Thursday and Saturday (one flight).

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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