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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

> AirAsia for 50 flights out of Singapore

After a shaky start here, Malaysian budget airline AirAsia now aims to more than double the number of daily flights out of Changi Airport to 50 by 2011. This will make it bigger than Singapore-based low-cost carriers

Tiger and Jetstar, said AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes. Last week, AirAsia launched flights to four Indonesian destinations — Jakarta, Bandung, Yogyakarta and Bali.

It is now eyeing at least three new routes this year, to destinations such as Penang and Langkawi in Malaysia, and Medan and Surabaya in Indonesia.

At the official launch of flights to the four Indonesian spots yesterday, Datuk Fernandes said that by the end of the year, it would have more flights from Singapore than rivals Tiger and Jetstar.

Tiger operates an average of 24 flights out of Singapore per day, while Jetstar does 20.

“I applied for a licence here and I didn't get it, but we are still the largest low-cost carrier in Singapore,” said Mr Fernandes, referring to his failed efforts in 2003 to set up an airline here.

By the end of next year, AirAsia will also take delivery of 24 new Airbus A-320s, with financing already secured for 22 of the aircraft.

This means the low-cost carrier will eventually have a fleet of 100 aircraft, putting it on a par with bigger players like Singapore Airlines (SIA), which currently has 102 planes in its fleet.

All this translates to more options for travellers downgrading from full-cost carriers amid the economic slowdown.

Changi Airport's low-cost carrier traffic grew by 21 per cent in February, compared with the same month last year.

In January, business increased by 48 per cent.

With the likes of SIA and Cathay Pacific reducing flights to avoid flying half-empty planes, budget carriers are stepping in with deals like free seats, where passengers pay only taxes and other surcharges.

Aviation analyst Shukor Yusof of Standard and Poor's said AirAsia is “leading the pack' among the low-cost carriers.” Its forward bookings are looking good, and it is certainly ahead of the pack in terms of expansion plans and new routes. It has the size to aggressively grow its business.”  - The Straits Times.