AirAsia X adds Chengdu from KL; London route stimulates traffic by 50%

Image: Air Asia X London Route
AirAsia X’s Kuala Lumpur-London Stansted route was announced in a grand fashion with the airline’s CEO Azran Osman-Rani and AirAsia Group’s CEO Tony Fernandes taking the cabin crew out for a bus ride around London. They still have reason to celebrate, because the route has given passenger numbers between the two cities a needed boost since it started in March this year.

This week saw the launch of AirAsia X’s eighth route, to Chengdu in China. With a fleet of two A340s and four A330-300s, the ambitious ‘low-cost, long-haul’ airline has grown steadily rather than spectacularly from its Kuala Lumpur base since it launched its first flight on 2 November 2007, just under two years ago.

Current frequencies on these routes range between four flights per week (on the new Chengdu route) and daily. Currently the London and Tianjin routes are flown with the two A340s while the rest are operated by 383-seat A330s.

London – KL traffic up by 50%

When AirAsia X launched its London Stansted service took a close look at the history of traffic development between the UK and Malaysia. Passenger numbers had fallen dramatically from a recent peak of 660,000 annual passengers in 2005 to just 400,000 in 2008.

Destination Start Date Competition from KUL
Gold Coast (OOL) 2 November 2007 None
Hangzhou (HGH) 4 February 2008 None
Perth (PER) 2 November 2008 Malaysia Airlines (9/week)
Melbourne (MEL) 12 November 2008 Malaysia Airlines (11/week)
London Stansted (STN) 11 March 2009 None
Tianjin (TSN) 2 April 2009 None
Taipei (TPE) 23 April 2009 China Airlines (7/week),
EVA Air (4/week),
Malaysia Airlines (6/week)
Chengdu (CTU) 20 October 2009 None
Source: Airline news and OAG Max Online for w/c 9 November 2009
Chart: Kuala Lumpur - London seasonlity
Source: UK CAA

Since AirAsia X entered the market in mid-March with five weekly flights, increasing to daily from the beginning of July, year-on-year passenger numbers have shown a dramatic improvement. Demand was up about 20% during the first three months but in July, August and September this has increased to almost 50%, with estimated load factors for AirAsia X reaching 92% in August.

Abu Dhabi from the end of November

Image: Oakland Raiders Air Asia X promotion
US West Coast next? In addition to AirAsia X’s announced expansion plans, the fact that the airline sponsors the Oakland Raiders football team is more than a discreet hint at wanting to establish flights to the area. And, yes, it is Air Asia’s Tony Fernandes wearing the football gear, next to Mark Davis, the son of Oakland Raiders’ owner Al.

The airline’s next step is to launch flights to Abu Dhabi from 23 November. The plan is to create a ‘virtual hub’ at the airport with flights from there to destinations in Africa, Europe and the Middle East. The Abu Dhabi schedule would appear to mesh nicely with the London Stansted schedule suggesting that A340s will be used on the route.
The fact that one of the airline’s A340s has recently been re-branded as part of a sponsorship deal with the US Oakland Raiders football team suggests that US destinations are also very much part of the airline’s future plans. Traffic rights to Paris Orly have recently been obtained and thus Paris could become the airline’s second European destination after London.

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