What’s that New York mention, AirAsia?

AirAsia east meets west.jpg
AirAsia this morning is raising eyebrows with the above image it posted on its Facebook fan page. The photo carries the caption “What’s your interpretation of East meets West? To be revealed on 29th March 2011.”

That begs the easy reply that AirAsia will fly to New York City through its long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X. After all, it was only a few months ago AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes said he would like to see AirAsia X fly to New York this year via a fifth-freedom European stopover. The carrier is known for its social media and non-traditional marketing methods, making a Facebook hint for a new route plausible.

Alas, a few thorns. First, the AirAsia image also carries the broken disclaimer: “The image & copy above is not link to any AirAsia’s promotional/marketing campaign/new routes.” Nonetheless, the carrier’s Facebook fans are taking the image to mean a New York route announcement is pending. If the image is not about a new route, promotion, or marketing, then what it is? Almost everything airlines publicise these days has a marketing element.

On the fleet front, the carrier is maxed out. It has deferred A330-300 deliveries for this year owning to lack of space at KUL and preparing for a possible IPO. Although the carrier in February ordered three A330-200 aircraft, which can fly from KUL to Europe to make the stopover before continuing to New York, they won’t be delivered until 2014.

Additional A340 aircraft are unlikely given the carrier’s prejudice against additional frames (unless, AirAsia X chief Azran Osman-Rani says, they could be leased for under US$400,000 a month). Recent high fuel prices certainly won’t help the argument for the fuel-guzzling A340.

Finally, there is the matter of the Malaysian government needing to approve the route. AirAsia X has made recent strides with gaining access to Seoul and Tokyo, but is still blocked on Sydney and Jeddah. Although with Malaysia Airlines no longer flying to New York’s Newark (via Stockholm), excuses would be stretched in blocking AirAsia X.

The verdict? New York, yes. But not now unless there’s something up Fernandes’s and Osman-Rani’s sleeve.

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