AirAsia Could Soon Start Flying To The U.S.

AirAsia is one of Asia’s biggest low cost carriers, which has really put a lot of pressure on airlines like Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. AirAsia has several divisions, though AirAsia X is their longhaul operation based out of Malaysia.

As of now they have a fleet of 22 A330s, though they have another 76 A330s and A350s on order. Their A330s are in an extremely dense configuration, with 377 seats, and nine seats per row in economy (rather than the standard eight). They do have 12 “premium” seats though, which are angled flat.

As of now AirAsia flies within Asia, to the Middle East, Australia, etc. However, for a while they’ve been looking to expand beyond that, and in particular, to the U.S. It looks like that might finally happen.

AirAsia X has received clearance from the Federal Aviation Administration to begin flying to the U.S. Per AirAsia’s press release:

The airline is the first Asian low-cost carrier to secure approval to operate scheduled passenger flights to the US.

The approval allows AirAsia’s long-haul, low-cost sister airline to operate services to any destination within the US.

AirAsia X is currently considering flights to several US states including Hawaii as part of its route expansion plans.

AirAsia X Group CEO Datuk Kamarudin Meranun said, “This is a major milestone for AirAsia X. Our expansion up until now has concentrated on Asia, Australasia and the Middle East, and we are excited about our first foray into an entirely new market as we look beyond Asia Pacific.”

As you can see, they’re considering Hawaii as their first U.S. destination, which shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially as it’s closer to Asia than the mainland.

Hyatt-Regency-Waikiki-Honolulu-Hawaii-28
AirAsia X could soon add flights to Hawaii

The fact that this is Asia’s first low cost carrier to get clearance to fly to the U.S. is pretty significant. U.S. carriers already face competition from low cost carriers on domestic flight and on flights to Europe (including from Norwegian and WOW Air), so now that tough competition will expand across the Pacific.

However, in practice I’m not sure what effect this will really have. Transpacific flights are already as cheap as they’ve ever been, and you can regularly find ~$600 fares between the U.S. and Asia. I’m not sure how much lower a low cost carrier can go, even when we’re talking about an airline with cabins as dense as AirAsia’s. Without higher yield business travelers, I imagine it won’t be easy to turn a profit on a U.S. mainland to Asia flight.

While I’m sure AirAsia will fly to Hawaii soon enough, it’ll be interesting to see if they expand to the mainland, given the challenges of turning a profit on such a long flight for a low cost carrier.

Comments

  1. The HNL flight will most likely flight through KIX with a 8-12hr layover there. Thats at least was the info from a friend working for Air Asia in BKK like 2months ago.

  2. @Philip – an 8-12 hour layover? That can’t be right, that’s a lot of time on the ground at KIX. If they have the A350’s, they could easily make it from KUL or DMK in Bangkok (Air Asia’s main base in Thailand) non-stop.

    I would expect Scoot to potentially follow suit with flights to the US. They don’t have a terribly dense configuration on their 787’s -in fact, economy seats on Scoot are basically the same as many other airlines 787’s- and they have some 787’s coming online that will feature crew-rest areas meant for longer-haul flights.

    Fun fact, many speculated a couple years back that Air Asia would launch flights to Oakland as Air Asia had a sponsorship deal with the Oakland Raiders. They even had an A340-300 painted in a special Raiders livery! Perplexing as the NFL isn’t popular in Malaysia, let alone Asia.

    http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d81104073/article/raiders-announce-sponsorship-deal-with-lowfare-airline-airasia

  3. OAK? Its been several years since I’ve lived in the Bay Area, but I remember seeing an AirAsia ad plastered on the side of the hangar by the airport entrance.

  4. Although the flight is prob going to be ex-KUL, it would be cool (from a practicality, demographic, and demand sense) to see something nonstop to HNL from Manila, since there is a HUGE filipino community on the hawaiian islands and the only Philippines to Hawaii nonstop is on PAL. Additionally, if you look at the emergence of LCCs in the Philippines, they have been super receptive to long laul low cost with airlines like Cebu Pacific etc. going to the Middle East

  5. Air Asia has an interesting business model that’s founded on frieght, not passengers. On average, their freight business (keeping in mind, its just on their main fleet, not seperate freighters) runs at about 80% profit (direct quote from Air Asia X CEO in 2014 when he presented a lecture at my uni). Their passengers are mearly there to cover the cost of flying the plane, if they break even on a passenger they won’t care because freight is their money maker.

    Considering that most suppliers in the US purchase stock from Asia, this isn’t a bad move as Air Asia freight is really competitive on pricing which brings their operations supply chain costs down.

  6. Would you be comfortable sandwiched in a LCC seat for 10 hours between whatever layover stop Airasia has to HNL? Unless it’s super super cheap I don’t think I can not for me at least.
    I know Jetstar flies from SYD to HNL but that is an 8 hour at best flight I think.

  7. UHHHHHHMMMMMMM…. Although I often help many passengers at HNL “find the gate for their flight back to the United States”, Hawaii, actually is a state.

    And, it appears that AirAsia has the same challenges in terms of familiarity with geography. Last I checked, Korea IS part of Asia and one of its LCCs, Jin Air, has been flying into HNL for just over a year.

    So, they are NOT the first Asian LCC to start U.S. flights.

  8. I have flown Air Asia intra asia, Air Asia Indonesia , quite good for a LCC .
    Prepay for food and priority seats – row 1 is quite spacious.
    Air Asia X I have done numerous times on the SYD KUL route in Premium.
    Has the best airline sleep on Air Asia X and day flights are good too.

    Service is very good.

  9. When will AirAsia start flying into Saipan? Apparently they are talking to folks in Saipan about imminent flights there.

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