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Old November 4th, 2008, 03:53 PM   #1321
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AirAsia flies to Sulawesi's Makassar and Manado


After having ordered some 175 environment-friendly A320 airplanes, which arrived in Indonesia's capital Jakarta at the end of September 2008, Low Cost carrier (LCC) AirAsia continues to expand its network from Malaysia and Thailand to Indonesia. In Indonesia, AirAsia will use them first for domestic flights from Jakarta to Batam in Riau, Padang in Western Sumatra, Balikpapan in Kalimantan and Denpasar in Bali.

But what seems more amazing is that since this year it is possible for tourists and businessmen in Bangkok or Chiang Mai to reach the exotic destinations of Makassar and Manado in Sulawesi via Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur. Especially Makassar is rapidly becoming a booming entrance gate to Eastern Indonesia.

To cover TIME2008, which was successfully being held at the newly-built Celebes Convention Centre (CCC) in Makassar on October 14-17, AirAsia granted me a complimentary air-ticket with the following everyday schedule:

Chiang Mai - Kuala Lumpur (AK897) to depart at 11.05 (Arrival 14.50)
Kuala Lumpur - Makassar (AK1026) to depart at 16.40 (Arrival 20.00)
Makassar - Kuala Lumpur (AK1027) to depart at 20.25 (Arrival 23.40)
Kuala Lumpur - Chiang Mai (AK896) to depart at 08.50 (Arrival 10.40)

To Manado, the flight schedule is on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday only:

Kuala Lumpur - Manado (AK1030) to depart at 06.40 (Arrival 10.40)
Manado - Kuala Lumpur (AK1031) to depart at 11.10 (Arrival 15.10)

For further information, please go to: www.airasia.com

Furthermore, special thanks go to H. Eddy Kosasih Parawansa, Chief of the Culture & Tourism Office in Makassar, to give me the chance to survey the tourism potential of Makassar and beyond during TIME2008.

The first excursion that he arranged for some travel journalists on October 16 went to the coral islands of Khayangan and Samalona, which both belong to the 12 outlying "Spermonde" island group reached by speed-boat from the busy waterfront of Makassar. There you can swim and carry out some water sport activities or study the life of the local fishermen. After a fishy lunch, we were back in the afternoon.

Another highlight was the full day excursion to the beautiful white-sanded "Bira Beach" which is located in the Bulukumba region in the southern part of South Sulawesi some 192km away from Makassar.

On the way, you pass extensive rice fields, salt production sites and coconut plantations. In Tana Beru, you will see the well-known "phinisi" sailing ship building sites. Made with teakwood and ironwood and built together with wooden nails, such a ship can sail up to the Philippines, Japan, Australia or to far away Madagascar and Africa. From Bira, you can take a boat to the still unexplored Selayar Island, which looks like a shrimp and has a long fascinating history.

Back in Makassar, don't miss to see Fort Rotterdam, right near the Losari Beach famed for its stunning sunsets, and the fishing port of Paotere. Formerly called "Ujung Pandang" Fort Rotterdam is a mighty turtle-like shaped structure with five bastions and the main gate re-built by the Dutch in the 17th century. Within the fort area is the "La Galigo" Museum, which displays antique art objects relating to history and community life, such as an impressive ceramic and porcelain collection. The nearby port of Paotere shows hundreds of fishing boats and sailing ships from all over the archipelago unloading their catches or distributing goods.

Most of the tourists and travelers will come and leave Makassar at the newly modernised and enlarged Hasanuddin International Airport, which began full operation since August 15 and is 23km away from the city- centre. Further improvements will be made in line with future developments in the aviation industry.

Last not least, Manado is the newest destination of AirAsia and is located in North Sulawesi. When you land there, you will notice churches like in Toraja Land. Also, Manado is famous for its myriad of seafood restaurants - and diving resorts abound. The most prominent diving destination in North Sulawesi is certainly Bunaken Island, which is a 20 minutes speed boat ride away from Manado. The underwater gardens of Bunaken make it a great place to be not only for diving, but also for snorkeling. Nearby is Siladen Island, which is known for its nicer beach and a lot more of coral reefs. Manado will shine, when there will be the upcoming "World Ocean Conference" on May 11-15, 2009 to build understanding and respect for sustainable management of marine resources.

Interesting to note is what full-service Garuda Indonesia plans to do next as an answer to the aggressive expansion of AirAsia. During a short press conference during TIME2008 on October 16, Mr. Prijastono Purwanto, VP Marketing Officer of Garuda Indonesia, told travel journalists that the opening of the Surabaya-Hongkong and Denpasar-Brisbane sectors will happen next year and a third international route is in the planning stage. He also pointed out that Garuda Indonesia's current fleet of 52 airplanes will be increased to 63 next year.
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Old November 5th, 2008, 12:53 PM   #1322
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MAS: Special Livery
Landed in Schiphol
by Tierecke

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Old November 7th, 2008, 06:28 PM   #1323
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AirAsia X gets plane funding, defying credit crunch
07-11-2008:- THEEDGEDAILY

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia X, the Malaysian long-haul budget airline backed by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group Ltd, obtained bank funding for new planes, defying the credit crunch.

A group of European banks and one Malaysian lender agreed last month to fund 80% of the cost of four Airbus SAS A330-300s, the airline’s chief executive officer Azran Osman Rani said yesterday in Kuala Lumpur without giving details. The planes have a list price of US$766 million (RM2.7 billion).

AirAsia X, also backed by AirAsia Bhd, Southeast Asia’s largest low-cost airline, secured funds at costs almost similar to last year’s as central banks worldwide cut rates to ease the tightening of credit. Boeing Co and Airbus have said they plan to fund customers themselves next year as banks curb lending to some carriers on concern they may not get their money back.

“In the grand scheme of things, we’re happy to have funding,’’ he said. “The net rate that we’re paying is actually not that materially higher than a year ago.’’ — Bloomberg
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Old November 7th, 2008, 07:03 PM   #1324
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AirAsia is top brand from emerging marts
Published: 2008/11/07

LOW-cost carrier, AirAsia, has been recognised as the top brand to watch in the UK Trade and Investment’s New World Brands annual report.

The report said AirAsia is the only South East Asian company to make the list of top ten brands from emerging markets across Brazil, Russia, India and China.

“It is a great achievement for AirAsia to be recognised as a top new world brand. It reflects our hard work and pioneering attitude towards making air travel an affordable reality for everyone across Asia,” the airline said in a statement. — Bernama
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Old November 9th, 2008, 05:32 AM   #1325
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MAS to have ‘global online sale’ for 26 destinations
Sunday November 9, 2008 TheStar

KUALA LUMPUR: MAS will have a “global online sale” for its 26 international destinations from tomorrow to Wednesday. This includes Xiamen, Kunming, Male, New Delhi, Dubai, Istanbul, Paris, London, Sydney and Auckland.

The one-way fares starts from as low as RM429 for Male and New Delhi, RM759 to Sydney, RM999 to Paris and RM1069 to London. Fares do not include taxes and surcharges.

Up to one million economy class tickets will be offered for travels from KL Internatinal Airport and Kota Kinabalu International Airport and it is only available for purchase via www.malaysiaairlines.com.

The sale offers are valid for travel up to Sept 30 next year, except embargo periods.

MAS commercial director Datuk Rashid Khan said they expected an overwhelming response.

“We are constantly innovating the way we offer fares to encourage customers to fly with us. We will continue to offer low fares and five-star products and services,” he said in a statement.
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Old November 11th, 2008, 12:13 AM   #1326
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MAS/Boeing Offering Holiday Packages To Nine Lucky Winners At Global Online Sales
November 10, 2008 21:03 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 10 (Bernama) -- Buy one of Malaysia Airlines' tickets at its Global Online Sales which started today and you might be one of the nine lucky winners to walk home with a holiday package for two.

In providing its customers with more value for money, MAS has partnered Boeing to offer holiday packages to Rome, Kunming, Yogyakarta, Saigon and Bangkok.

Malaysia Airlines Senior General Manager Sales, Dato Bernard Francis said, "While we expect very encouraging response to the Global Online Sales offer, we are making it more exciting for our customers who purchase these offers."

"Not only will they get to plan early and buy tickets to the destinations of their choice, but also stand a chance to surprise themselves by winning our reputable Golden Holiday packages at absolutely no additional cost for yet another vacation," he said in a statement here today.

Participation is easy and simple. Customers just have to buy one ticket during the three-day day only sales which ends on Wednesday, November 12.

Tickets can be purchased at www.malaysiaairlines.com.

A total of 26 international destinations go on sale for three days only beginning Sunday until Wednesday, Nov 12 with Malaysia Airlines' Global Online Sales.

They include Xiamen and Kunming, Male and New Delhi, Dubai and Istanbul, Paris and London, as well as Sydney and Auckland with one way fares starting from as low as RM429.00 for Male and New Delhi, RM759.00 to Sydney, RM999.00 to Paris and RM1069.00 to London.

Fares do not include taxes and surcharges. All they need to do next is register their names, provide valid email addresses, answer a question and write a slogan to stand a chance to win the following prizes:

*1 First Prize: 6 days / 3 nights package to Rome.

* 2X Second Prizes: 4 days / 3 nights package to Kunming.

*2X Third Prizes: 4 days / 3 nights package to Yogyakarta.

*2X Fourth Prizes: 3 days / 2 nights package to Saigon.

*2X Fifth Prizes: 3 days / 2 nights package to Bangkok.

All the Golden Holidays holiday packages are for two persons.

The packages, valid till 31 March 2009, are inclusive of return economy class airfares, hotel accommodation with daily breakfast, and return airport transfers.

Another delight for the winners is airport taxes, insurance, fuel surcharges will be borne by Malaysia Airlines.

Contest results will be announced two weeks after the Global Online Sales period.

-- BERNAMA
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Old November 11th, 2008, 06:51 AM   #1327
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just booked a flight (return) to Bangkok in January 2009 for just RM371 (including surcharge+airport tax+insurance)

great price for a great airline
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Old November 12th, 2008, 12:24 AM   #1328
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MAS may cut fuel surcharge further
Published: 2008/11/12

NATIONAL carrier Malaysia Airlines (3786) is considering lowering fuel surcharges further on its flights.

It said this just hours after rival AirAsia Bhd announced that it will eliminate fuel surcharges on all its flights now that oil prices had come down sharply from recent highs.

Senior general manager for sales Datuk Bernard Francis said MAS had already reduced fuel surcharges by between 50 per cent and 73 per cent on its recent all-inclusive low fares promotion which covered domestic and international flights.

"Customers loved the cheapest deals in town, and our sales surged 400 per cent. We hear our customers loud and clear, and we are looking at reducing surcharge further to continue to give customers what they want - low fares plus five-star products and services, giving customers the best value for their money," he said in a statement, responding to media queries on whether MAS planned to follow AirAsia's lead in getting rid of fuel surcharges.
Francis said consumers should look out for more low fare promotions from MAS.

"One of the best rewards of our promos is that passengers can travel almost immediately. There's no need to wait seven months before you can travel," he remarked.
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Old November 12th, 2008, 12:25 AM   #1329
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Not enough MAS flights to London: Minister
Published: 2008/11/12

LONDON: The Tourism Ministry will bring up the matter of insufficient Kuala Lumpur-London flights by Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to the Cabinet, said its minister, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

She said the problem has affected tourist arrivals from Europe and London.

“Now with global fuel prices at a very low level, MAS should use the opportunity to increase its flight frequency on the KL-London route,” she told reporters after opening Tourism Malaysia’s booth known as Malaysia Pavilion at the World Travel Market fair at the ExCel London exposition park here today.

It is understood MAS, which used to operate some 14 flights a week on the route, had reduced the frequency to between 10 and 12 a week.

Azalina said this and other shortcomings like expensive airfares had caused Malaysians and Europeans to opt for other airlines.

She also said the London-Langkawi and London-Penang routes that had been scrapped would also raised in the Cabinet. — Bernama
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Old November 12th, 2008, 12:36 AM   #1330
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No fuel surcharge and 500,000 free seats: AirAsia
By LISA GOH
Updated: Tuesday November 11, 2008 MYT 8:46:18 PM

KUALA LUMPUR: All AirAsia and AirAsia X passengers will now no longer have to pay for the fuel surcharge for all local and international flights.

AirAsia Bhd group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes said the move - effective Tuesday - would mean that passengers would now only have to pay for the fare, airport tax and administration fee when flying with them.

Fernandes explained that “getting rid of the fuel surcharge” would not affect the base rate of the air fare, but he could not guarantee that the airline would never re-impose the surcharge should world fuel prices skyrocket again.

“We're not increasing the base rate. It is what it is.

“But if fuel prices shoot up ... I’ll be crazy to say I’ll never add the fuel surcharge again. But we will resist for as long as we can,” he told reporters Tuesday after making the announcement here.

The check-in baggage handling fee, however, would be maintained as it was imposed not only because of rising fuel prices earlier this year.

“We did it (in April) for three reasons - fuel prices, to limit the number of luggage, and to be more environmentally-friendly.

“The lighter the plane is, the less emissions it will have,” he said.

Fernandes also announced that beginning Wednesday, the airline would be offering some 500,000 free seats to all AirAsia destinations.

The booking period is until Sunday, and the travel period for the free seats is from June 22 to Oct 24 next year.

“There are two ways to deal with a slow economy. You’ve got to give more value, and you’ve got to stimulate people to travel.

“That’s what we’re doing now,” he said.

On the fuel surcharge, he said that it had previously cost passengers an average of RM47 per person.

Asked how the he planned to deal with the impact by removing the fuel surcharge, he replied:

“Higher load factor and newer initiatives to increase our revenue will help cover it. We’re keeping our 76% load factor, while adding 20% more seats.

“We’ll look at other ways of increasing our revenue. The easiest drug is fuel surcharge but it also destroys the business.”

Also present at the announcement was Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad, who applauded AirAsia’s move.
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Old November 12th, 2008, 10:00 AM   #1331
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Last day to get MAS’s great offers


DON’T miss out on the last day to get great fares from Malaysia Airlines’ Global Online Sales today.


Spoilt for choice, the public can select from 26 international destinations in the three-day sales campaign which started on Monday.

Up to one million economy class seats are being offered for travel from KL International Airport (KLIA) and Kota Kinabalu and available for purchase only online at www.malaysiaairlines.com.

These destinations include Xiamen, Kunming, Male, New Delhi, Dubai, Istanbul, Paris, London, Sydney and Auckland with one-way fares starting from as low as RM429 for Male and New Delhi, RM759 to Sydney, RM999 to Paris and RM1,069 to London. The fares do not include taxes and surcharges.

"Our customers have always said: ‘Give us value for money’. And we are giving them what they want – everyday low fares, all-inclusive low fares and now, the Global Online Sales," said Malaysia Airlines commercial director Datuk Rashid Khan (pix).

"We expect overwhelming response to the Global Online Sales and expect the one million economy class seats to be snapped up fast," he said.

"We are constantly innovating the way we offer fares to encourage customers to fly with us. We will continue to offer low fares and five-star products and services, so come and check out our prices on the MAS website first before buying your tickets," Rashid explained.

No extra charge applies for customers who commence their travels from Penang and Johor Baru, while a 50% rebate off the published fares is offered on flights from other parts of Malaysia to both KLIA and Kota Kinabalu to connect with the international journeys. The Global Sales offers are valid for travel up to Sept 30 next year, except embargo periods.

More info on http://www.malaysiaairlines.com
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Old November 12th, 2008, 10:02 AM   #1332
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Double posts
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Last edited by Go Ahead Eagles; November 12th, 2008 at 10:04 AM. Reason: double posts
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Old November 12th, 2008, 09:25 PM   #1333
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No fuel hedging need for AirAsia now
Wednesday November 12, 2008 By B.K. SIDHU TheStar



Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad
(left) and AirAsia Bhd group CEO Tony Fernandes at the function to
announce that the airline would abolish fuel surcharges.


Airline has also scrapped fuel surcharge effective Tuesday

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia Bhd has stopped hedging its fuel requirements for now, said group chief executive Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes.

AirAsia also scrapped its fuel surcharge effective yesterday for all its flights.

Last month the budget carrier bought back all its contracts up to December 2008 as the airline was paying higher fuel prices of nearly US$80 a barrel when crude oil prices were hovering around US$60 a barrel.

“We are un-hedged and this is the best way to be,” Fernandes said. “The time is not right to look at new hedges as it is too volatile right now as there is still too much speculation in the market place. The best thing to do is stay clean at the moment.”

Fernandes said AirAsia had bought back its hedging contracts under US$80 a barrel, for 150,000 barrels a month, which was a third of its consumption.

“We paid cash to buy the contracts last month. We are in a reasonable position now but that does not mean we will not go into hedging contracts in the future,” he said.

Any loss from its hedging positions will be reflected in AirAsia’s third quarter results, Fernandes said, without offering details.

Analysts said AirAsia would have sold its contracts at US$79.50 and US$82.50 a barrel and might have lost RM40mil each for the third and fourth quarter 2008.

“They speculated on fuel and the deal has gone sour,” said an analyst.

Yesterday, crude oil for December delivery traded at US$60.29 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Jet fuel has come down from its high of US$181.83 on July 3 to US$82.05 a barrel in Singapore yesterday.

Fernandes was speaking to the media after announcing the abolishment of fuel surcharges for international and domestic flights effective yesterday.

To compensate for the shortfall of its fuel levy income of RM47 per passenger, the airline is hoping to sell more seats.

It will keep its fares low and come up with new marketing strategies.

The airline also announced offering half a million free seats for the travel period from July to October 2009.

Fernandes said AirAsia’s forward bookings were still looking good, with a load factor of about 76%.
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Old November 13th, 2008, 02:09 AM   #1334
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(From left) AirAsia Group deputy CEO Datuk Kamarudin Meranum (partly
hidden), AirAsia chairman Datuk Aziz Bakar, Domestic Trade and Consumer
Affairs Minister Datuk Shahrir Abdul Samad, Fernandes, AirAsia regional
commercial head Kathleen Tan and AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani at the
launch of the zero fuel surcharge in KL yesterday.-THEEDGEDAILY
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Old November 13th, 2008, 07:29 AM   #1335
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MAS cheer for travellers
Thursday November 13, 2008 TheStar

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is launching its first All Inclusive Low Fares Goes Global sale today for 66 domestic and international destinations.

The fares start from RM63 nett for domestic travel, RM158 nett for Asean and RM472 nett for international destinations.

In a statement here yesterday, MAS said the promotion was held in response to consumers’ requests for all-in prices.

“Our sales for the recent All Inclusive Low Fares showed a 400% increase – clearly demonstrating that customers loved our low fares, transparent pricing and recognise the value of flying five-star,” said MAS senior general manager (Sales) Datuk Bernard Francis.

The promotion, he said, would see 26 additional international destinations with three million seats on offer covering destinations in Malaysia, Asean, Asia Pacific, South Asia, Australia, the Americas and Europe.

“What we are doing with this latest promotion is to provide nett pricing, making it easier for customers to make their travel decision,” he said, adding that MAS hoped to offer similar all-in low fares for other destinations soon to stimulate travel.

The booking period for the promotion starts today until Nov 30 while the travel period is from Nov 20 to Sept 30 next year.

Log on to www.malaysiaairlines.com to book tickets.
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Old November 13th, 2008, 07:30 AM   #1336
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Nortel Solution To Support MAS Five-star Value Carrier Vision
November 12, 2008 21:37 PM

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 (Bernama) -- Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has invested in a new communications solution from Nortel to support its vision of becoming a five-star value carrier by 2012.

A significant component of this transformation is the upgrading of the legacy information technology (IT) network infrastructure at MAS to enable and support strategic and critical airline business activity, Nortel said in a statement here Wednesday.

Nortel is a recognised leader in delivering communications capabilities that make business simple to its customers.

The company said its technologies are designed to help eliminate today's barrier to efficiency, speed and performance by simplifying networks and connecting people.

"Nortel's converged enterprise network solutions stood out from the crowd, providing a secure, future-proof and agile infrastructure that will support our ongoing business transformation through 2012 and beyond," said MAS chief information officer Faridah Abdul Rahman.

Nortel Malaysia general manager for channels and enterprise business, Bernard Chiang, said the Nortel solution will help MAS in achieving its five-star value carrier objectives.

The airline's new enterprise communications infrastructure is built around Nortel Ethernet Routing Switch 8600, a resilient terabit-class enterprise switch that scales to 384 Gigabit Ethernet ports.

-- BERNAMA
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Old November 13th, 2008, 09:58 AM   #1337
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MALAYSIA AIRWAYS "FREEDOM OF SPACE" Boeing 777, 9M-MRD, seen here at EWR, Newark Liberty International Airport, New Jersey, USA. May, 2008. Simply one of the best ever "special" liveries or schemes to be applied to an airliner. Copyright Tom Turner.
by Tom Turner - SeaTeamImages / AirTeamImages
http://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/2543238384/

image hosted on flickr


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Old November 13th, 2008, 10:01 AM   #1338
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AirAsia X touches down in Melbourne


MELBOURNE: AirAsia X’s inaugural flight from Kuala Lumpur to Victoria, Australia, touched down at Melbourne Airport today - launching what the carrier describes as "a new era of international air travel" between the two destinations.

The inaugural flight used a new wide-bodied Airbus A330-300, which provides passengers with a level of service AirAsia X says passengers do not normally expect from low-cost airlines.

AirAsia X will service the route between Melbourne and Kuala Lumpur initially with four return flights per week. The airline has announced plans to upgrade this schedule to daily return flights during the peak season from 18 December to 16 January. Daily return flights will then commence from March 2009.

AirAsia X now actively services three Australian destinations - Melbourne, Perth (six weekly return flights) and the Gold Coast (four weekly return flights). The airline also operates five return flights each week between Kuala Lumpur and Hangzhou (Shanghai) in China.

AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani was accompanied on today’s historical flight by a number of AirAsia X board members, VIPs, as well as Malaysian Secretary General, Ministry of Transport, Dato’ Zakaria Bahari, and AirAsia X Chairman Dato’ Seri Kalimullah bin Masheerul Hassan.

Osman-Rani said the airline was thrilled to have successfully expanded its growing network to Victoria.

“After months of planning it is very exciting to see our well known red and white logo out on the tarmac,” Osman-Rani said. “We’re expecting this route to perform strongly as it is one of the most requested Australian destinations from our Malaysian guests and we know Melbourne travellers are keen to have regular, affordable travel options to Malaysia.

“Since commencing sales in September 2007 we have sold over 400,000 Air Asia X seats to date on our route network and over 60,000 between Melbourne – KL, which is the highest performing new route.

“Kuala Lumpur - Melbourne is an under-served route and one which is plagued by exorbitant fuel surcharges imposed by full service carriers. There is definitely a huge gap in this particular market for affordable travel. An increasing number of passengers need to use this route on a regular basis for leisure, education and family travel purposes and it’s great to know we can meet their needs with a service that offers value and reliability.”

Osman-Rani said that the arrival of AirAsia X in Melbourne was the culmination of a collaborative effort between the airline, the Victorian Government, Melbourne Airport and industry and was pleased with the endeavour shown to make the introduction of the service a success.

The success of AirAsia X rides on the back of affiliate AirAsia’s leading regional network in Southeast Asia and China. AirAsia has over 105 routes to 60 destinations and the highest daily frequencies to most Asian cities.




Passengers travelling with AirAsia X will enjoy latest technology fixed-backshell seats with sleek black leather upholstery, in-flight entertainment featuring innovative content and applications and Wi-Fi access.

Last week the airline celebrated its first birthday since commencing flight operations to the Gold Coast on November 4, 2007. In late October it was the recipient of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) Best New Airline of the Year Award 2008 bestowed at the CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence held in Singapore.

AirAsia X showed it is at the forefront of the aviation industry this year by being the first airline in the Asia-Pacific region to sign up with ecommerce company PayPal for purchases of airfares and gift vouchers.
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Old November 13th, 2008, 10:03 AM   #1339
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AirAsia X sees profitable year ahead


TOULOUSE, Nov 13 - Long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X Sdn Bhd, which has well over RM300 million cash in hand, is set to turn in profits next year, says its chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani.

"Probably within three to four months from operating our new planes, we will be profitable. With new planes, more passengers will fly," Azran said.

"Most important is cash flow and this is how we convince our financiers. We have been cash positive since April 2008," he said on board AirAsia X's brand new Airbus A330 aircraft on its ferry flight from Toulouse to Kuala Lumpur recently.

AirAsia X took delivery of its first A330-300, costing US$200 million (RM704 million), on Oct 31. These planes are for its long-haul operations, linking Kuala Lumpur with destinations in Australia, North Asia, the Middle East and Europe, complementing the existing AirAsia network.

Launched in January 2007, the affiliate of low-cost AirAsia Bhd had earlier this year placed an order for 25 Airbus A330 aircraft. Powered by Rolls Royce Trent 700 engines, the carrier's new A330 can accommodate 383 passengers in a two-class layout, with 355 seats in economy and 28 in the airline's new XL premium class. It is also equipped with the latest in-flight entertainment systems by Thales of UK.

Azran said the airline was also looking at local and foreign funds to finance the purchase of its 25 A330 planes, estimated at RM17.6 billion. So far, financing for the first few planes has been secured.

In addition to its positive cash flow, he said AirAsia's branding helped the long-haul airline to seek funds in markets which were badly hit by the credit crunch.

"When we made our presentation to financial institutions in August, we were very fortunate because financiers in Europe had confidence in our brand. We had AirAsia," he said.

"October 2008 will always be remembered as when the market crashed. The timing couldn't have been worse. Nobody was supposed to lend. Nature of banks is such that they only make money when they lend at higher rates. If banks don't lend, you don't make money."

Despite reports of a global decline in passenger traffic, he said the carrier was still experiencing a strong forward bookings from November to March.

Azran said the second A330 will be delivered in mid-December, followed by three each in 2009 and 2010. The remaining planes are slotted for delivery up to 2013.

"With three planes next year, we can add five new destinations. We hope to fly to Japan, Korea, China, India and at least one more country," he said.

Azran said the carrier was on track to start its flights to London in March and is in talks with three airports - Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands.

"We have made all the applications and everything looks positive. We hope to announce our sales launch in a month's time.

"UK will be exciting as so many people are waiting for it... students, families, friends. To me, what's exciting is not just UK, I am interested in getting new markets," he said.

On its marketing efforts, Azran said unlike traditional airlines which had to wait for passengers to plan their holiday destinations, the low-cost long-haul carrier had to go the extra mile to woo people to travel to places
they had never dreamt of going.

"It involves a lot of pull marketing. You've got to pull passengers in. For instance, we have to collaborate more with tourism bodies, concert or sports organisers. We have to do a lot more marketing. Have to scratch our heads to find reasons for people to travel. We cannot wait for people to come to us. That's why we use the media, celebrities to promote our airline.

"We have to keep finding new ways. I am particularly excited about our in-flight entertainment, a collaboration with Virgin Group of UK," he said.

AirAsia X is 48 per cent-owned by Aero Ventures (a venture of Datuk Tony Fernandes and several of his business associates), followed by 16 per cent by Virgin Group and 16 per cent by AirAsia.

Bahrain-based Manara Consortium and Japan-based Orix Corp have taken the remaining 20 per cent stake in the long-haul low-cost carrier.

A key principle of the AirAsia X business model is high frequency, point-to-point medium to long-haul services.
Covering destinations between four and eight hours in flight duration from Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia X complements AirAsia's current extensive route network.

Applying the point-to-point network, it says, also kept its operations simple and costs low.

"Code sharing with another airline involves massive amount of capex (capital expenditure), costs are high. Traditional legacy airlines invest hundreds of millions on computer systems, baggage clearing systems and payment systems. But you still lose your bags," Azran said.

"That system (code sharing) is not perfect. People are more price-sensitive and Internet-savvy. They can build their own itinerary. They can buy three different tickets for example, Sydney-Gold Coast, they can fly Virgin;
Gold Coast to KL they can fly AirAsia X and KL to Macau they can take AirAsia," he said.

"They can check in and out. Most people think Internet penetration in Asia is still low. But the reality is when you offer a good fare, people will find their own connection. If you don't have Internet connection, you can still book
online.They buy their own, check in and out themselves, our operating costs are significantly lower. That's a huge advantage."

The first A330 was used in AirAsia X's inaugural flight between Kuala Lumpur and Perth on Nov 2.

Since launching its commercial services in November last year, AirAsia X has operated its long-haul services to Hangzhou, China and Gold Coast, Australia, with one leased A330.

The airline has since experienced surging passenger demand, recording sales of over 345,000 seats after almost a year in operation.

AirAsia X, which has flown over 200,000 people across Asia and Australia, now serves the Kuala Lumpur-Perth route with six direct return flights per week. It plans to upgrade this schedule to a daily service by mid-December.

The long-haul budget carrier will also commence services between Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne on Nov 12 - Bernama
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Old November 13th, 2008, 04:07 PM   #1340
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