AirAsia Starting To See Markets Open Up

The AirAsia Group is starting to benefit from a recovery in demand as travel restrictions ease in its main Southeast Asian markets, and it expects this momentum to continue through the end of this year and early 2022.

AirAsia said it aims to fly 61% of pre-COVID-19 pandemic capacity in the domestic markets in which it operates by December.

AirAsia’s core Malaysia-based operation, AirAsia Malaysia, has been suffering this year due to domestic movement controls in place since January 2021, as well as international travel restrictions. However, AirAsia Malaysia more than doubled the number of passengers carried in September compared to August, with load factor rising significantly month-over-month.

This increase was mainly driven by the introduction of a travel bubble for the Malaysian resort destination of Langkawi (LGK), which allowed domestic visitors from September and international visitors from mid-November.

AirAsia Malaysia has “observed a continuous improvement in bookings” since September, Bo Lingam, CEO of the group’s aviation operations, said. The recovery was further boosted when domestic interstate travel was allowed to resume more broadly from Oct. 11. Some international travel restrictions were also relaxed.

International traffic should also benefit from the introduction later this month of a vaccinated travel lane (VTL) between Malaysia and Singapore. The VTL will enable AirAsia Malaysia to restart its Kuala Lumpur (KUL)-Singapore (SIN) service from the end of November.

The AirAsia Group’s other carriers in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines have also seen “a significant increase in seats sold for immediate and near-term travel,” Lingam said.

AirAsia “expects to see a continuation of this upward trend throughout the fourth quarter and well into 2022 as global travel restrictions continue to ease,” Lingam said, adding: “The upcoming year-end holiday season will further spur air travel demand, especially in the visiting friends and relatives (VFR) as well as the leisure and spontaneous travel markets.”

Photo credit: Mohd Rasfan / AFP / Getty Images

Adrian Schofield

Adrian is a senior air transport editor for Aviation Week, based in New Zealand. He covers commercial aviation in the Asia-Pacific region.