AirAsia X closing in on Paris?

Is AirAsia X preparing to finally launch flights from its Kuala Lumpur hub to Paris Orly?

There have been a number of interesting developments in the past week or so that could indicate yes.

For background, last October AirAsia X asked the French government for landing rights, and was later approved but elected not to start flights at that time. While the carrier has been expanding, it has been doing so with A330-300 aircraft, which do not have the range to serve Western Europe. For its London Stansted flights AirAsia X uses two leased A340-300 aircraft.

First AirAsia listed France as a country to book from on its home page:

AirAsia France homepage.jpgThere are no flights to or from France–yet–but all of the other 22 countries on that list do have AirAsia flights.

Last Friday AirAsia X reached an agreement with New Zealand’s Christchurch Airport to launch four weekly direct flights. What’s curious about Christchurch is that it’s beyond AirAsia X’s A330-300 normal operating range.

There are a few ways to read this. First is that “direct” in aviation is not synonymous with “non-stop”, and so AirAsia X could operate the Christchurch flight with a re-fueling stop. Second is that AirAsia X could fly non-stop to Christchurch. Since AirAsia X would not want payload restrictions it would use the only other aircraft available to it: an A340-300. But that would put the carrier’s London flights in flux.

But what if London flights were due for a re-jig?

That’s what AirAsia X chief executive Azran Osman-Rani suggested in late July, saying Paris flights were still “in the oven”.

He gave a defiant no to the prospect of leasing more A340s to fly to Paris, saying instead: “If I did Paris I would split Stansted, so use the existing two A340s and probably reduce our London freqency and add Paris.”

Now we get to the final interesting development. AirAsia X was due to have double daily flights to London most days next summer in Europe but now only has six weekly flights until 10 August, after which the carrier’s booking engine shows there are no more Stansted flights.

So what would I bet on?

Bonjour Dato’ Fernandes and monsieur Osman-Rani. Parlez-vous francais?

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