AirAsia X suspends Christchurch services

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Malaysia low cost long-haul carrier AirAsia X will be suspending its services to Christchurch, New Zealand.

From 31 May onwards, the carrier will cease its four-times weekly flights between Kuala Lumpur and Christchurch, in a move to improve its operating efficiency.

It will instead concentrate its capacity in its core markets of Australia, China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea, said the airline.

"The decision to withdraw from Christchurch was a difficult one, but was made taking into account our strategic focus in consolidating our network in markets where we have built up stable, profitable routes," said its CEO Azran Osman-Rani.

He added that the route had "performed strongly" since its launch in April 2011, achieving a load factor close to 80% that year. However, rising fuel costs that have increased by more than 30% have "compromised" the carrier's ability to offer low fares.

"We have, since the suspension of our flights to Europe and India, increased flight frequencies to Tokyo and opened up a new route to Sydney, Australia. AirAsia X will continue to further expand in its core markets and add frequencies on existing routes," said Azran.

Christchurch international airport CEO Jim Boult said he is "bitterly disappointed" at the airline's decision to end the airport's direct link to Kuala Lumpur.

"We are very sorry to see AirAsia X depart, but sincerely hope we can welcome it back in the future. CIAL [Christchurch International Airport Ltd] invested years of work into attracting the carrier to Christchurch and we hope that work can be banked as an investment in a future service," he added.

In January, AirAsia X announced that it will be suspending services to London Gatwick and Paris Orly as well as services to Mumbai and New Delhi, India.

The carrier blamed high fuel prices, weakening demand for air travel from Europe and exorbitant government taxes for affecting its business.

Visa restrictions for travel between India and Malaysia and the increase in airport and handling charges in India also added to its cost for those flights.