AirAsia X aims to double Australia operation over the next decade

AirAsia X is aiming to expand its Australia network by up to three new destinations within three years and double its Australia traffic over the next 10 years.

AirAsia X has been serving Australia since Nov-2007, when the Malaysian medium/long haul low cost airline launched service from Kuala Lumpur to the Gold Coast. The airline currently operates 53 weekly flights from its Kuala Lumpur hub to Australia, including 14 to Melbourne, Perth and Sydney and 11 to the Gold Coast. Seven of the 11 Gold Coast frequencies continue to Auckland.

AirAsia X CEO Benyamin Ismail told Blue Swan TV on the sidelines of the 1-Aug-2017 CAPA Australia Pacific Summit in Sydney that “there are opportunities to grow to other places in Australia. We are looking at Adelaide, we are looking at Cairns, and potentially Canberra as well. Not immediately but in the two or three years.”

Mr Ismail added that “there is also room to increase frequencies on some” of AirAsia X’s existing Australia routes. He pointed out that AirAsia X already offers a third daily flight to Melbourne, which has been AirAsia X’s most successful Australia destination, during peak periods. In the future, AirAsia X may operate a third daily frequency to Melbourne year-round, as well as a third daily frequency to Perth or Sydney.

Australia has been an important market for AirAsia X since its inception, with Kuala Lumpur-Gold Coast the airline’s very first route. Mr Ismail said AirAsia has carried more than 11 million passengers to and from Australia in its first decade in the Australia market and aims to double this figure in its second decade.

As Blue Swan has previously analysed, AirAsia X carried 1.7 million passengers to and from Australia in 2016 with an average load factor of 77%. AirAsia X is now almost as big in Australia’s international market as Virgin Australia and Jetstar’s long haul unit.

See related report: AirAsia X achieves phenomenal growth in Australia over the last decade

According to BITRE data, AirAsia X has carried approximately 9 million passengers to and from Australia since its launch in Nov-2007.  The more than 11 million passengers figure citied by Mr Ismail likely includes sister short haul airline Indonesia AirAsia, which operates from Darwin and Perth to Bali. Indonesia AirAsia carried 380,000 passengers to and from Australia in 2016.

Long haul LCC Indonesia AirAsia X also served Melbourne and Sydney from Bali for about a year before suspending flights to Australia in Sep-2016. Indonesia AirAsia X carried just over 300,000 passengers during its brief time in the Australia market, according to BITRE data.

Malaysia-based AirAsia X served a fifth destination in Australia, Adelaide, from late 2014 to early 2016. AirAsia X has since been talking to Adelaide Airport about potentially resuming the service. AirAsia X has never served Cairns or Canberra – although both airports are obviously keen to attract AirAsia X. Townsville also has been previously cited as by AirAsia X as a potential new Australia destination.

See related report: AirAsia X gets ready to resume expanding its Australia network