Asian long-haul, low-cost carrier, AirAsia X is to resume flights to New Zealand after a four year hiatus. The airline is to add Auckland, the largest and most populous urban area in New Zealand, as a tag on its existing daily Kuala Lumpur – Gold Coast service and opened reservations for the new route this week.
AirAsia X previously served Christchurch, the largest city in the South Island of New Zealand but closed the route after just 15 months of operation. It commenced the four times weekly non-stop link from Kuala Lumpur in April 2011 but suspended the route from June 2012.
The decision was part of a process to improve the airline’s operating efficiency and it has subsequently concentrated its capacity in its core markets of Australia, China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea. Although the airline claimed the route performed strongly with loads of close to 80 per cent, it was hit hard by rising fuel costs which compromised the carrier's ability to offer low fares.
"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 then Chief Executive Officer, Azran Osman-Rani at the time.
AirAsia X will start the daily flight from March 22, 2016 using an Airbus A330-300. It had hinted about its new route launch with suggestive posts on Twitter showing imagery of sheep, a bungee jumper and a kiwifruit in the shape of an airline.
The growth will put AirAsia X into direct competition with Malaysia Airlines on the Kuala Lumpur – Auckland city pair. The national carrier currently offers a daily non-stop flight on the route using an Airbus A330-300. AirAsia X believes its competitive fare offer will stimulate the market creating higher travel demand and in turn boosting tourism traffic for all sectors.
Although its operation was short-lived, the arrival of AirAsia X in the New Zealand market in 2011 significantly stimulated passenger demand from/to Malaysia during that and the subsequent year, according to MIDT data. Annual O&D demand grew 22.5 per cent in 2011 and 19.2 per cent in 2012 before falling sharply in 2013. The Kuala Lumpur –Auckland market is estimated at around 130 passengers a day.