Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia X announced it will add new long-haul routes from Kuala Lumpur to London, Dubai and Istanbul this year as travel demand returns with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. The airline, which is operating six Airbus A330 jets, hopes to have 15 planes in service by year-end, its Malaysia chief executive, Benyamin Ismail, said in the announcement.
AirAsia X had a fleet of 39 planes, including 13 in Thailand and two in Indonesia before the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline, which was unprofitable even before the pandemic, had limited cargo and charter flights until recently, when many Asian nations eased travel and quarantine rules. Last year, the creditors of AirAsia X agreed to a restructuring that paid just 0.5 percent of debt owed on liabilities of 33.65 billion ringgit (US$7.62 billion) and ended existing contracts, giving it a fresh start as demand recovers.
AirAsia X said it would resume four routes to Japan and Hawaii from 1 July and add flights to Dubai, Istanbul and London by the end of the year after it gets the relevant approvals and airport slots. The airline had stopped flying to London in 2012, citing soaring taxes and higher jet fuel prices, though founder Tony Fernandes had long teased the prospect of a return.
Kamarudin Meranun, executive chairman of Capital A and founder of AirAsia X said: “This is an incredibly exciting day as AAX returns to the skies refreshed and rejuvenated. The resumption of four popular medium-haul routes and announcement of three new long-haul services today is a significant milestone following the most challenging time in aviation history. We are thrilled to return to London and to launch flights for the first time to Dubai and Istanbul.”
CEO Ismail said “We are back, better and stronger than ever. We have spent the downtime in flying reviewing every aspect of the operation to deliver even greater value and choice for medium and long-haul travel. Now that international borders are reopening across the world, we are able to resume operations to our most popular destinations including Australia, Japan, Hawaii, India, South Korea first. Today’s announcement of the resumption of four routes to Japan and Hawaii and to launch flights to London, Istanbul and Dubai is just the beginning. We have many more destinations in the pipeline which we will announce soon, to meet strong pent up demand. The return to London and first time flights direct to Dubai and Istanbul will be a game-changer for great value long haul travel and these will be on sale soon for travel later this year. As our services grow, we will continue to bring our fleet of aircraft out of hibernation and, we can look forward to gradually bringing our valued pilots and cabin crew who were on furlough back.”