Carry on: AirAsia X restores long-haul budget travel to Asia, Mid-East

In other news for business travellers, Air New Zealand beefs up its Houston service..

Asia’s leading low-cost carrier, Air Asia X, is again providing New Zealanders with their cheapest international travel option, a move it says will open Asian and Middle Eastern markets to more budget-minded travellers.

The lead-in promotional fares of $329 one-way to Kuala Lumpur from Auckland via the Gold Coast in Australia are well below others in the market and are available for many months, chief executive Benyamin Ismail told NBR. Officially, they are available until April 3 for travel up to May 22, 2017.

Until now, Kiwis haven’t had the same access to the kind of international budget air travel that is available in Australia and throughout Asia. Jetstar’s Auckland-Singapore service didn’t survive long and AirAsia’s short-lived service from Kuala Lumpur to Christchurch didn’t survive the earthquakes.

But Mr Ismail and chairwoman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz say this is a new attempt to give Kiwis much cheaper connections to whole new regions. AirAsia pioneered low-cost flights of up to four hours within Asia and from its Malaysian hub flies to 56 destinations in 18 countries.

Next will be Hawaii, which is under negotiation, and "more are in the pipleline." Tan Sri Rafidah says the airline’s connections to the Middle East (Jeddah in Saudi Arabia), India and Asia (including China, Japan and Korea) offer a big attraction to budget travellers. A "Fly-Thru" option at Kuala Lumpur allows rapid transits that don't require immigration clearance.

“Some people think cheap is a rundown plane. We are a low-cost airline, not a cheap one. A budget airline from the standpoint of the traveller and low-cost from our standpoint,” she says. “We must be efficient and we can make a difference in our service and the connectivity we provide."

The airline has a fleet of 28 A330s and is due to start receiving its new A330neo (new engine option) aircraft from 2018, giving more fuel efficiency and carrying even more passengers than the existing configuration of 365 economy seats and 12 flatbed seats.

Houston flights to go daily next summer
Air New Zealand is moving to daily services on its Auckland-Houston route for the peak season from December to February. The service has been operating five times weekly using Boeing 777-200 aircraft since the launch in December. Chief Sales and Commercial Officer Cam Wallace says the daily summer service is to meet the high level of demand.

First US-made Airbus takes flight
The first Airbus aircraft produced in the US, an A321 for JetBlue, made its first flight this week from the Mobile Aeroplex at Brookley, Alabama. The flight lasted three hours and 26 minutes during which tests were performed on systems, engines and structure performance. The aircraft will go through a few more weeks in final production before it is delivered to JetBlue.

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