AirAsia X has launched a new regional subsidiary in Thailand.
The new long-haul low-cost carrier was officially unveiled at an event in Bangkok on Tuesday (22 April 2014), with CEO Nadda Buranasiri announcing the airline’s first routes and in-flight products.
Operating from its home base at Bangkok Don Mueang International Airport, Thai AirAsia X will start flying on 17 June 2014 with daily services to Seoul. It will then expand its operations with flights to the Japanese cities of Tokyo and Osaka commencing later in the year.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be Thailand’s first low-cost long-haul carrier,” said Nadda. “While Thai AirAsia’s Airbus A320 planes continue to offer the best connectivity for short-haul destinations, Thai AirAsia X will be operating Airbus A330-300 wide-body aircraft to destinations that are further than a four-hour flight time from Bangkok.”
Speaking to Travel Daily, Nadda revealed that future destinations could include Australia and China, as long as the flight times fitted in with the airline’s strategy.
“We know that Thailand is a preferred destination for Australians,” Nadda told Travel Daily at a media briefing. “We would [also] consider Chinese destinations over four hours in length.”
Thai AirAsia has already established a strong presence in China, with flights to nine mainland cities. And while Tassapon Bijleveld, CEO of Thai AirAsia, confirmed that “Thai AirAsia X will not take over any routes from Thai AirAsia”, the new airline’s four-to-nine-hour flight times could open up such destinations as Beijing.
Thai AirAsia X will also be looking to use Thai AirAsia’s network of short-haul routes to offer a greater range of destinations for its passengers. For example, passengers on inbound flights from Seoul, Tokyo and Osaka will be able to connect to a range of Thai domestic destinations such as Phuket, Krabi and Chiang Mai, or regional hubs like Siem Reap and Yangon, via Bangkok.
In terms of aircraft, Thai AirAsia X will initially operate two Airbus A330-300 aircraft, each offering 377 seats – 12 in business class and 365 in economy. These planes will come equipped with flat-bed seats for premium passengers and special ‘quiet zones’. Asked what fleet expansion plans Thai AirAsia X has, Nadda told Travel Daily that any new aircraft deliveries would “depend on demand”.
Thai AirAsia X received its Air Operator’s Certificate late last year, but delayed its launch – initially planned for February 2014 – due to the impact of Bangkok’s political protests on the country’s travel industry. But Nadda said he remained confident the airline would record load factors of up to 80% on both its new routes.
The CEO also predicted that traffic on both Korean and Japanese services would be a 50-50 mix between Thai and international. The destinations were selected in part due to the fact that South Korea and Japan both offer visa-free travel for Thai nationals.
Thai AirAsia X becomes the seventh branch of the AirAsia group, following AirAsia Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and India, and AirAsia X in Malaysia.