AirAsia is set to launch flights between Kuala Lumpur and Chiang Rai – its seventh point in Thailand – later this year, as the low-cost operator expands its Thai network. 

The thrice-weekly flights to Chiang Rai will commence 2 November, and follow a recent resumption of flights from Kuala Lumpur to U-tapao airport near Pattaya.

AirAsia Pattaya

Source: AirAsia

AirAsia resumed operations to U-tapao airport in June.

In total, AirAsia operates nine direct flights between Malaysia and Thailand, linking its hubs in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor Bahru with Thai cities like Bangkok, Hat Yai and Chiang Mai. 

AirAsia’s sister units in Thailand and Indonesia have also each announced new additions to their networks. Thai AirAsia on 17 June commenced fifth-freedom flights between Taiwan and Japan, on the back of strong travel demand. 

The airline inaugurated flights between Taipei and Okinawa, as well as Kaohsiung and Tokyo Narita. Both flights originate from Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport

Thai AirAsia chief Santisuk Klongchaiya says the new fifth-freedom flights allow the airline to “add more opportunities” to serve the Japanese market. 

“Carrying out stop overs to receive additional passengers is a new challenge for AirAsia but it has provided more opportunities to connect with a wider customer base in both Japan and Taiwan,” he adds. 

Fifth_NRT_Thai AirAsia

Source: Thai AirAsia

The launch of fifth freedom flights between Taiwan and Japan.

Meanwhile, Indonesia AirAsia announced that it will launch flights to Brunei, making it the second AirAsia unit to fly to the small Southeast Asian nation. 

The thrice-weekly flights, which will commence 2 August, are part of efforts to expand connectivity to neighbouring countries in Southeast Asia, helping to boost tourist arrivals into both countries. 

Other low-cost carriers in the region have also announced network expansion plans. 

Australia’s Jetstar, for instance, revealed a “major expansion” into New Zealand, as it launches new flights later this year between Cairns and Christchurch, as well as between Auckland and Sunshine Coast. 

Jetstar will also increase capacity on domestic routes in New Zealand, including Christchurch-Auckland and Auckland-Wellington, and has hinted at further growth in its domestic operations in the next year. 


Source: Wikimedia Commons

It will also adjust flight times for flights between Christchurch and Melbourne, allowing for better connections to its long-haul network to Asia. 

“This will provide better access to Jetstar’s flights between Melbourne and Asia, including Ho Chi Minh City, Phuket, Singapore and Bangkok, and enhance inbound tourism to the South Island,” states Jetstar. 

Sister unit Jetstar Asia on 25 June made a return to Australian operations, with the launch of seasonal flights between Singapore and Broome in Western Australia. 

The twice-weekly flights are the first scheduled services between the two cities, and make Jetstar Asia the first international carrier to serve regional Western Australia. 

Meanwhile, in India, low-cost operators there are also eyeing new operations to the Middle East. IndiGo will increase its operations into the Saudi city of Jeddah, with an additional daily flight from its Mumbai hub from 15 August. The ramp-up now means IndiGo operates two daily flights between the two cities. 

Compatriot Akasa Air launched flights between Mumbai and Riyadh - its third international destination - on 15 June. Riyadh is also the airline’s second point in Saudi Arabia, after Jeddah which it launched in May. 

In Vietnam, Vietjet has launched flights between Phu Quoc - the country’s beach destination - with  the Taiwanese cities of Kaohsiung and Taichung. 

The flights add to a growing list of connections between Taiwan and Vietnam, with the low-cost operator operating nine routes currently.  


Apart from the low-cost carriers, other Asia-Pacific operators are set to ramp up flying, especially on the medium- and long-haul routes. 

China’s Hainan Airlines launched direct flights between Beijing and Prague on 24 June, with the thrice-a-week flights operated by Airbus A330s. 

The launch came about a week after it commenced flights from Shanghai Pudong to Brussels - its third direct flight between China and the Belgian capital. Hainan also announced it would be operating two weekly flights between Beijing and the Mexican city of Tijuana from 12 July. 

Compatriot China Eastern, meanwhile, resumed operations between Wuhan and Singapore on 21 June, a route it briefly operated between 2012 and 2014. The thrice-weekly flights are operated by Boeing 737s. 

Separately, Vietnam Airlines launched daily flights between Ho Chi Minh city and Manila on 17 June, making it the first Vietnamese operator to fly directly to the Philippines. The SkyTeam carrier touts the Philippines’ “potential”, noting the significant number of Vietnamese diaspora – around 30,000 – living in the Philippines. 

It adds: “In recent years, Vietnam has become an increasingly attractive destination for Filipino tourists thanks to its geographical proximity, reasonable travel costs and rich culture.” 

Vietnam Airlines A321neo

Source: Vietnam Airlines

A Vietnam Airlines A321neo

The airline also launched flights between Hanoi and the Chinese city of Chengdu on 26 June, as the number of Chinese tourist arrivals steadily increases in recent months. According to local media reports, Chinese travellers have regained their position as the top tourist source market for Vietnam in May, for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic four years ago. 

Elsewhere in the region, China Airlines will be adding fifth-freedom connections between Auckland and Melbourne in December. The Taiwanese operator currently flies into Auckland via Brisbane, and plans to increase its current frequencies from five to six times a week at the end of the year.

Qantas and Jetstar are also set to commence operations to Vanuatu in September, with the full-service operator flying thrice a week from Brisbane to Port Vila, and Jetstar operating four weekly flights from Sydney. The move comes amid the collapse of flag carrier Air Vanuatu, which was a codeshare partner for Qantas. 

Cathay is also resuming seasonal flights to Cairns during the year-end holiday period, with the first flight to commence 17 December. The thrice-weekly flights will be operated by Cathay’s A330s.