AirAsia X brings low-cost, long-haul flights to London Stansted

Image: Air Asia Launch Kuala Lumpur to London Route
In the spotlight: Where Oasis Hong Kong and Zoom Airlines have failed in the no-frills long-haul market, Air Asia X is hoping to gain from its Kuala Lumpur-London service. With five direct flights a week, Air Asia X now connects Australia to London via its hub in Kuala Lumpur. To see the live ceremony, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXO1IZfDNgU.

This week saw the launch by AirAsia X of long-haul, low-cost flights between Asia and Europe. Using an A340 the airline is linking Kuala Lumpur with London Stansted five times per week. This will complement its existing services using three A330s from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, Perth and the Gold Coast in Australia and Hangzhou (Shanghai) in China. AirAsia X becomes the second Asian carrier to attempt long-haul low-cost flights between Europe and Asia following Oasis Hong Kong, which operated to London Gatwick from Hong Kong between October 2006 and early 2008.

The UK to Malaysia market grew rapidly during the 90s from 185,000 annual passengers in 1990 to over 660,000 in 2000. Between 2000 and 2005 the market was relatively stable but since then it has fallen significantly to just 400,000 passengers in 2008. Manchester non-stop services which were started by Malaysian Airlines in 1999 ended in 2006. At present only Malaysian Airlines operates non-stop flights (twice daily) between London Heathrow and Kuala Lumpur. British Airways ended its non-stop flights to Malaysia in 2001.

Image: Air Asia Route launch

Chart: UK - Malaysia traffic 1987-2008 (Annual passengers)
Source: UK CAA

AirAsia X will operate aircraft 19 hours per day

With only one aircraft dedicated to the route and a flight time of between 13 and 14 hours it is not possible to operate a daily service. As a result AirAsia X operates five weekly flights with a variety of departure times to keep the aircraft in the air as much as possible.

Day of week KUL – STN STN – KUL
Monday   Dep 01:25 – Arr 21:25
Tuesday Dep 01:00 – Arr 08:00 Dep 09:30 – Arr 05:30*
Wednesday Dep 09:50 – Arr 16:50 Dep 18:10 – Arr 14:10*
Thursday Dep 17:00 – Arr 00:00*  
Friday   Dep 01:25 – Arr 21:25
Saturday Dep 09:50 – Arr 16:50 Dep 18:10 – Arr 14:10*
Sunday Dep 17:00 – Arr 00:00  
* Arrives next day
Source: AirAsia X website for flights from 29 March 2009

Turnaround times at London Stansted are scheduled for between 80 and 90 minutes. Ground time at Kuala Lumpur is considerably longer. Based on the schedule the A340 will operate for over 19 hours per day.

AirAsia X around 20% cheaper than Malaysian

Based on a snapshot of fare data collected by anna.aero for one-week trips originating in the UK during the next eight months, AirAsia X’s fares are around 20% lower than those of Malaysian Airlines operating from London Heathrow.

Chart: Fares
Source: Airline websites

Fares shown include all taxes and fees for a return journey for a random week in each month. For Malaysian the cheapest available combination of flights was selected during each travel period. On eight occasions out of nine AirAsia X is cheaper. While this is only a small selection of potential travel dates it gives a good indication of how AirAsia X’s fares compare in the market.

Connections to over 50 other destinations

From AirAsia’s low-cost terminal at Kuala Lumpur airport it will be possible to connect to over 50 other destinations in 15 countries, though connection times will vary considerably depending on the route and day of travel. AirAsia connects to 14 other Malaysian airports from Kuala Lumpur, plus 13 in Indonesia. In addition there are daily flights to Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. At Stansted, budget-conscious Asian travellers will be able to connect to over 130 European destinations primarily served by either Ryanair (100 routes) or easyJet (22 routes).


Comments

  1. Peter Morris says:

    I think you may be understating the Air Asia prices.

    On a limited number of comparisons I made, I found that Air Asia X came out about the same price or sometimes higher, if you take in to account:
    1. Baggage Check costs (both ways) for every item (Up to GBP44 each way)
    2. Food on board (both ways) (GBP7 each way)
    3. ‘Comfort Pack’ GBP5
    4. The cost of travel to STN rather than LHR (GBP10-20 each way)

    There is a need to read the small print!

  2. Reza Fazlollahi says:

    Are AirAsia X operating in a single cabin or do they also have an economy plus or business cabin?
    Also, do we know how many seats are they selling on their A340-300?

    Regards,

  3. Ron Kuhlmann says:

    Peter’s comment is bang on. In the April 2007 issue of Scorecard (www.unisys.com/scorecard) I wrote on this very same topic and noted that in quite a few cases, the “low fare carrier” was anything but. Some IT progress now allows more accurate comparisons but the airline ala carte, like its restaurant precursor, often ends up an unexpectedly expensive proposition.

  4. Bob Said says:

    I understand the general comment about the fare comparison with Air Asia X by Peter Morris except for the travel to STN rather than LHR, doesn’t that depend on your final destination? LHR may be further away, if, for example, you are going to Cambridge STN would be nearer!

  5. Besides all glamour of the inaugural launch:
    the key point will be that AirAsia X has successfully to address new audiences – so far not reflected for long haul travel. If they succeed on this here in Europe too (as it seemed to work, say for Australia) then a perspective is there to battle and lead against the strikes of BA, Virgin and the other (legacy) players around. Let´s see how they pilot the stormy conditions in the coming months ahead!

  6. A more comprehensive analysis comparing all flights between London and KL out to the 1st July 2009 confirms Peter and Ron’s view that AirAsia is more expensive than Malaysian Airlines. In fact, taking a simple average of spot prices like for like including taxes and fees, AK turn out to be 15% more expensive even before taking account of AirAsia X ‘a la carte’ options!

    anna.aero replies: Surely there must have been a few bargain flights with AirAsia X between now and the end of June? We would love to hear from someone at AirAsia X about these findings. Are the results the same for KL originating passengers? We will report in due course on passenger numbers on this route to see what stimulation effect is being achieved.

  7. Dr Shaiful says:

    I just returned home from a week vacation in London with my wife and 4 kids using Air Asia X. Tickets + prebooked meals (to and fro) + comfort kits(to and fro)+ Checked baggage 20kg(to and fro) for 6 persons totalled RM15200. I checked out same journey with Malaysia Airlines ( School Holidays, spring time, peak season..blah, blah, blah totalled RM26500. So you all be the judge. My family and I had a wonderful time in London. We also prebooked in advance our return tickets for Stansted Express train to Liverpool Street Station in Central London( GBP 108 for 6 persons). Thank you air Asia. Now everyone can fly to London. Our London Photos can be seen at http://www.panoramio.com/user/159257

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