AirAsia X is planning to add more fifth-freedom flights as it seeks to take advantage of the growth at secondary and tertiary cities across North Asia.
Sharing the long-haul, low-cost carrier’s plans was its head of network planning Venggatarao Niadu, as part of a panel at the Routes Asia Strategy Summit in Okinawa.
“We now operate an eight-hour range for our Airbus A330 widebodies, and we want to go beyond that using more fifth-freedom flights,” says Naidu.
Naidu cites AirAsia’s Kuala Lumpur-Gold Coast-Auckland and Kuala Lumpur-Osaka-Honolulu as examples of the model it is looking to for future growth. He adds that North Asia and China are regions for expansion and where it could mount more fifth-freedom services.
When asked about AirAsia X’s plans to return to Europe, Naidu describes it as “still a work in progress” and that the carrier is still working to secure the relevant rights. He reveals that flights to Europe will not only be operated by its main Malaysian unit, but also Thai AirAsia X.
Meanwhile, AirAsia X acknowledges that it faces certain obstacles to growth, largely bilateral limitations, and slot and infrastructure shortages.
Naidu says that, even with those challenges, and growing competition in the market, it isn't deterred from seeking new growth opportunities.
“When we see an opportunity, we grab it first. Then the industry will follow suit and flood the market. But we have seen that [the industry] will rationalise after a few years to keep it stable,” he says.