Sunday May 11, 2008 THESTAR
By WONG SAI WAN
KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia X will start its flights to London in March next year. And it will cost only about RM1,200 for a return trip on an economy ticket.
The country’s first long-haul budget carrier had announced last year that the Kuala Lumpur-London route would be its mainstay but could not take off because there was no suitable aircraft.
AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes said he had signed up for the lease of an Airbus A340 aircraft a few days ago.
“We will take delivery of the plane in January and it will take us several months to refurbish it.
“It will be configured to house 50 flatbeds (sleeper seats) and the rest would be economy seats but will be bigger and more comfortable than even that of a full service carrier,” Fernandes said in an interview from London.
He estimated that the average cost of a return fare to London would be about RM1,200 while the higher-class flatbed seats would cost about RM8,000 return.
The economy return fare on full service carriers like Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines is between RM4,000 and RM4,500 while a business-class ticket on these airlines costs more than RM20,000.
Fernandes said his airline was still negotiating with a couple of airports near the Greater London area but “chances are we will settle for London's Standsted Airport.''
The airport is located in the Uttlesford district of the English county of Essex, about 48km northeast of London. Stansted is a hub for a number of major European low-cost airlines. It is Britain’s third largest airport serving the London area after Heathrow and Gatwick.
Fernandes said AirAsia X would start with five flights a week using the first aircraft but “we will build it up to eventually two flights on a daily basis.”
“Our on-board entertainment system will be a state-of-the-art touch screen unit. You can watch movies, listen to music and even order your food from the unit,” he added.
On the permanent aircraft for the long-haul routes, he said AirAsia X was still looking at the Airbus A350 or the Boeing 787 (commonly called the Dreamliner).
“We have not decided on which wide-body aircraft but we want one that can give us the flexibility to serve Europe and the Americas. We want to turn Kuala Lumpur into a truly low-cost hub,” the AirAsia founder said.
AirAsia X operates long-haul flights that take six hours or more. It now operates flights to two destinations – Gold Coast in Australia and Hangzhou in China. The airline had announced that it would be flying to Tiruchirapalli in India in a couple of months.