(eTN) – Where most airlines fear to tread, Air Asia goes in without hesitation. This is clearly illustrated with Air Asia X’s plans for New Zealand. In 2010, Air Asia announced its intention to launch a Kuala Lumpur to Christchurch, New Zealand, flight. Little did they know that their inaugural flight in 2011 would be in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake.
Instead of pulling back or waiting for a more convenient time, Air Asia decided that this was the time that New Zealand needed them most and went ahead with the launch. In fact, the airline did better and decided to help in the restoration of Christchurch. According to AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani, “We’ve set a target of raising US$220,000 (500,000 Malaysian ringgit) and expect to reach the target within 12 months.”
A similar commitment to Japan was shown when the airline, having recently launched flights there decided that when the major legacy carriers were cutting back on frequency in the aftermath of the Tsunami, Air Asia would hold its ground and maintain frequency on its Tokyo-Haneda flights.
This policy not only pays off financially in the medium and long term, but also creates good will and demonstrates Air Asia X’s good corporate citizenship policy.
No such disasters were on the horizon when Air Asia launched its Paris Orly flight this year.
Air Asia X the long-haul arm of Air Asia – Asia’s (if not the world’s) most successful low-cost airline – has now added Paris to its portfolio of European destinations from its hub in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in a very carefully thought out strategy to initiate the flight to the city of light and love, on Valentine’s day February 14, 2011. This was just an example of Air Asia X’s clever marketing, using timing to create market demand.
Back in 2001 when Air Asia sprang from a two aircraft airline in a difficult environment, no one thought it would get off the ground. Ten years on and more than 100+ aircraft, the airline has received accolades for its cost efficiency and has won the Skytrax World’s best low-cost airline award in 2009 and 2010 It has the world’s lowest operating costs at US$0.035/seat-kilometer in 2010. It is also the first airline in the region to implement a fully ticketless air travel system.
When it opened bookings for its Paris flight, it sold more than 30,000 seats in less than 72 hours, indicating huge demand for cheap access to Europe.
On a more technical matter, one of the most important differences between no-frills carriers and traditional airlines is the seat pitch, the distance between rows of seats. According to airline comparison website Skytrax ( www.airline quality.com ), the seat pitch on AirAsia is 74 centimeters, compared with 81-86 centimeters on most Asian airlines.
For many travelers, those 7 to 12 centimeters of leg room could make a big difference during 20-plus hours of flying. The alternative is to opt for AirAsia X’s premium class, which provides a flat bed at a fraction of the price of standard business class.
A typical traveler’s comment would be: “If I was going to save that much money and have more spending money for the rest of my trip, I would. For the price, I thought it was great; the service was very good, and the staff were very friendly.”
The best part of flying Air Asia or Air Asia X is feeling “the buzz” that exists in this airline’s experience. Over the past decades, airline travel has slowly lost that feeling, due mainly to the growth of the airlines and the anonymity that exists in flying the legacy carriers. Air Asia has managed to recapture some of that buzz, through instilling a very horizontal and democratic corporate culture, which permeates all levels of staff. From the friendly check in, to the cabin staff on board, one senses a happy crew.
There is no better illustration to this than when I found out from the Paris Manager Sidonie that although the flight landed late into Orly, it would depart on time. When I asked how an Airbus 340 could be turned around in little over an hour, she said that their record time was 65 minutes. Today she proudly came on board prior to departure for Kuala Lumpur and told me they did it in one hour. Yes we were back on time!