AirAsia X passengers on new Bangkok-Nagoya route to rejoice with Singapore Airlines seats

Thai AirAsia X is using a newly acquired, low density A330-300 that was previously operated by Singapore Airlines (SIA), to launch daily services to Nagoya in Japan at the end of Oct-2018.


Summary:

  • Thai AirAsia X will operate its new Bangkok-Nagoya flight in the inherited SIA 285-seat configuration for three months;
  • Thai AirAsia X will subsequently retrofit this aircraft as well as two other A330-300s into all economy 367-seat configuration;
  • The new all economy configuration, which is significantly less dense than the all economy configurations at other A330-300 operators, will be offered by Thai AirAsia X to Nagoya as well as on some of its Osaka and Tokyo flights.

In an unusual move for an LCC, Thai AirAsia X will operate the service for the first four months using the original SIA seats, including 30 in business class and 255 in economy. From 01-Feb-2019, Thai AirAsia X will use a retrofitted A330-300 in a new 367-seat all economy configuration, providing an unusually spacious pitch for an LCC.

The AirAsia X Group has never served Nagoya from Bangkok but served Nagoya from Kuala Lumpur between Mar-2014 and Mar-2015. Nagoya will be Thai AirAsia X’s fourth Japanese destination after Osaka Kansai, Sapporo and Tokyo Narita. Malaysia AirAsia X also serves Osaka, Sapporo and Tokyo Haneda from Kuala Lumpur while Indonesia AirAsia X serves Tokyo Narita from Bali.

Thai AirAsia X has been pursuing rapid expansion in Japan over the last year, taking advantage of a lifting of restrictions on Thai carriers by Japanese authorities. Thai carriers had been blocked from launching new routes to Japan or adding capacity to existing destinations from mid 2015 to late 2017 due to an ICAO red flag.

Thai AirAsia X added a seasonal second daily flight to Osaka Kansai in Dec-2017 and a third daily flight to Tokyo Narita in Mar-2018. It also launched a daily service to Sapporo in Apr-2018.

With the launch of Nagoya, Thai AirAsia will operate seven daily flights to Japan compared to only three flights before the red flag was lifted. Thai AirAsia X’s initial two daily flights to Narita and one daily flight to Kansai were already being operated when ICAO initially raised the red flag and were therefore grandfathered.

Thai AirAsia X is focusing expansion on the Japanese market in 2018 as it adds three second hand A330-300s. The airline has already taken delivery of one of these aircraft, its seventh overall, and will take two more in the next few months, resulting in a fleet of nine A330s at the end of 2018. The nine A330s will be used for 11 daily flights – the seven to Japan as well three daily flights to Seoul and one daily flight to Shanghai (its only non-Japanese destinations).

The first additional A330 was used to add the third daily flight to Narita. This flight was operated until recently in an inherited full-service configuration consisting of 262 economy seats and 38 business class seats. Previously all AirAsia X Group flights had been operated with A330-300s featuring 365 economy seats and 12 premium seats.

See related report: AirAsia X product becomes inconsistent as second hand A330-300ceos are added

On 02-Aug-2018, Thai AirAsia X switched the third daily Narita flight back to a 377-seat aircraft while moving the ex-China Eastern 300-seat aircraft to the Bangkok-Osaka route. This coincided with the resumption of a second daily frequency on Bangkok-Osaka. Thai AirAsia X initially added the second Osaka flight in early Dec-2017 but reverted back to a single daily flight schedule at the end of Mar-2017 for the low season.

Thai AirAsia X is planning to use the 300-seat ex-China Eastern aircraft on the second Osaka flight until late Oct-2018. The airline at that point plans to operate just one daily flight to Osaka for a period of about five weeks while the aircraft is retrofitted. On 01-Dec-2018 the second Osaka flight will be reintroduced using an all economy 367-seat A330-300, according to the AirAsia X booking engine.

AirAsia X will also introduce the new 367-seat all economy configuration on one of its three Bangkok-Tokyo Narita flights from 15-Nov-2018 and on the Bangkok-Nagoya route from 01-Feb-2018. It appears the ex-Singapore Airlines 285-seat aircraft will be retrofitted in Jan-2018 while the ex-China Eastern 300-seat aircraft will be retrofitted in late Oct-2018 and early Nov-2018. The third aircraft that Thai AirAsia X is adding this year will likely be retrofitted prior to entering service.

The AirAsia X Group has selected a rather unusual 367-seat all economy configuration for all six A330-300s being added this year (including the three aircraft for Thailand and three aircraft for Malaysia). A330-300s typically have well over 400 seats in an all economy configuration. For example, rival LCCs Cebu Pacific has 436 seats on its A330-300s and Lion Air has the maximum 440 seats.

As Blue Swan previously explained, AirAsia X is limited with the second-hand aircraft being acquired as they are not outfitted with the large exit doors required for the maximum 440 seats. AirAsia X in installing its normal economy seats, which are in 3x3x3 configuration – replacing the wider seats in 2x4x2 configuration that were used by China Eastern and SIA. However, due to the restrictions with the smaller door only 367 seats can be installed, resulting in an unusually roomy pitch for an LCC.

AirAsia X will have only 43 rows in the all economy A330-300s. In comparison Cebu Pacific has 52 rows in its all economy A330 and Lion Air has 53 rows. AirAsia X even has more rows, 47, in its existing dual class 377-seat A330-300s – including 45 rows of economy and two rows of premium. (All these figures include some partial rows with less than the maximum seats.)

As the all economy A330s are being leased for six years, AirAsia X will have to manage product inconsistencies until 2024. Passengers on the impacted flights will obviously appreciate the extra legroom at the same LCC fare. In November, December and January, passengers on the new Nagoya route will even be treated to the wider and roomier SIA seat – a rare treat on a budget airline.