Pitching for additional flying rights ahead of its re-entry in the Indian market next month, Malaysia’s AirAsia X, the long-haul arm of budget carrier AirAsia Berhad, says it plans to provide greater connectivity to Australia and North Asia via Kuala Lumpur from here in its second coming.
The carrier, which had opted out of Delhi and Mumbai routes in early 2012 citing high airport costs, also said it may look at launching flights to the Malaysian capital from other airports like Ahmedabad and Amritsar as well.
AirAsia X has announced resumption of its Delhi flight from February 3, which will be operated four times a week.
“The airports are supportive…The only issue we may have is the bilateral (flying rights) constraints in adding frequencies… We want our government to talk with the Indian Government to open more bilaterals,” AirAsia X Berhad Chief Executive Officer Ben Ismail told PTI.
Ismail said while the Malaysian carriers have exhausted their weekly seat entitlements, their Indian counterparts have not. “So it may be hard for Indian government to justify (more traffic rights) but we are trying to support the whole industry (by seeking more flying rights).”
Significantly, AirAsia X demand for additional traffic rights comes at a time when its sister company AirAsia India, along with another carrier Vistara, is lobbying hard with the government to lift the restriction on international flying by the domestic carriers.
As per prevailing rules, a domestic carrier is allowed to fly overseas only when it has completed five years of domestic operations and have a minimum of 20 aircraft fleet. Both AirAsia India and Vistara do not meet these requirements.
Ismail said the airports were now more supportive to the airlines in terms of providing space, slots and check-in counters, among others.
“We have flying rights for Delhi and Mumbai, but we decided to resume Delhi first because we have a brand (AirAsia India) here,” the AirAsia X chief said.
He said the airline wanted to daily services from Delhi besides resuming Mumbai, but was unable to do so due to the restricted flying rights.
At present, three Malaysian carriers–Malaysian Airlines, AirAsia Berhad and Malindo Air operate in the Indian market.
Asked if his airline supported government’s proposal to auction additional traffic rights in its draft Civil Aviation Policy, Ismail said it would be difficult for low-cost airlines as they were on the borderline in terms of profitability.
“The good things, however, about the auctioning of slots at the London Heathrow and Hong Kong airports is that they give opportunity to new airlines,” he said.
Pinning his hopes on the support of the two group companies in consolidating AirAsia X position in the Indian market, Ismail said “we are bit smarter now in choosing the markets. (Earlier) there was not a good foundation and marketing of routes.
“Now we have AirAsia India which operates from Delhi, Bengaluru and other destinations and then AirAsia Berhad which flies to southern destinations to supplement traffic.”
The three entities combined will compliment and supplement each other’s network, thereby providing enhanced air connectivity to global destinations via Kuala Lumpur, he said, adding the global destinations include those in Australia and North China.