AirAsia X to return to New Zealand

Asian long-haul, low-cost carrier, AirAsia X is to resume flights to New Zealand after a four year hiatus. The airline is to add Auckland, the largest and most populous urban area in New Zealand, as a tag on its existing daily Kuala Lumpur – Gold Coast service and opened reservations for the new route this week.

AirAsia X previously served Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand but closed the route after just 15 months of operation. It commenced the four times weekly non-stop link from Kuala Lumpur in April 2011 but suspended the route from June 2012.

The decision was part of a process to improve the airline’s operating efficiency and it has subsequently concentrated its capacity in its core markets of Australia, China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Although the airline claimed the route performed strongly with loads of close to 80 per cent, it was hit hard by rising fuel costs which compromised the carrier's ability to offer low fares.

"The decision to withdraw from Christchurch was a difficult one, but was made taking into account our strategic focus in consolidating our network in markets where we have built up stable, profitable routes," said its then Chief Executive Officer, Azran Osman-Rani at the time.

AirAsia X will start the daily flight from March 22, 2016 using an Airbus A330-300. It had hinted about its new route launch with suggestive posts on Twitter showing imagery of sheep, a bungee jumper and a kiwifruit in the shape of an airline.

New Zealand is a world class destination that has always had a special place in our heart. We are excited to be back in this beautiful country to launch this service, allowing seamless connection for our guests from all over Asia to Auckland city. Similarly, New Zealanders will now have more flight options to Gold Coast as well as access to all the exciting destinations across our extensive flight network in Asia through the Kuala Lumpur hub," said Benyamin Ismail, Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia X.

The growth will put AirAsia X into direct competition with Malaysia Airlines on the Kuala Lumpur – Auckland city pair. The national carrier currently offers a daily non-stop flight on the route using an Airbus A330-300. AirAsia X believes its competitive fare offer will stimulate the market creating higher travel demand and in turn boosting tourism traffic for all sectors.

Although its operation was short-lived, the arrival of AirAsia X in the New Zealand market in 2011 significantly stimulated passenger demand from/to Malaysia during that and the subsequent year, according to MIDT data. Annual O&D demand grew 22.5 per cent in 2011 and 19.2 per cent in 2012 before falling sharply in 2013. The Kuala Lumpur –Auckland market is estimated at around 130 passengers a day.

“Australia has always been a key market for us; this new route from Kuala Lumpur to Auckland via Gold Coast signifies our commitment to developing flight connectivity in the region and our continuous effort to expand our operations. We have all the confidence that this new route will thrive, riding on the success we achieved from our other Australian routes," added Ismail.
Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…