AirAsia to launch Chinese airline

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AirAsia has signed an agreement for its most ambitious venture to date: a low-cost carrier based in mainland China.

The Malaysian company has penned a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with finance company Everbright and the government of Henan province to establish AirAsia China, a budget airline based in Zhengzhou.

In addition to the creation of the new airline, AirAsia China will invest in the development of a new LCC terminal at Zhengzhou Xinzheng International Airport, an aviation academy to train pilots and crew, and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities to service aircraft.

The MoU was agreed by AirAsia’s group CEO, Tony Fernandes, Everbright’s executive director & president, Wang Weifeng, and Henan Airport Group’s vice chairman & president, Li Weidong, in the presence of Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak.

AirAsia was the first foreign LCC to operate in China
AirAsia was the first foreign LCC to operate in China

“This Chinese venture represents the final piece of the AirAsia puzzle,” said Fernandes. “In just 16 years, we have successfully built a presence in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, India and Japan, with China closing the loop on all major territories in Asia Pacific.

“AirAsia can now live up to its name as the only airline that connects travellers across Asia Pacific – from China, Japan and South Korea in the north, Australia and New Zealand to the south, India and the Middle East to the west, and ASEAN at the centre – representing an unbelievable foundation to drive growth for our partners and catapult change in the region,” he added.

Zhengzhou is the capital of Henan, the central Chinese province with a population of approximately 95 million people – almost as many as Malaysia and Thailand combined. Zhengzhou airport currently handles just over 20m passengers per year, but this is expected to rise sharply in the coming years.

“We chose Zhengzhou as our base due to its strategic location and importance as a logistics hub. As China’s gateway to Europe, Zhengzhou sits at the centre of a vast rail, highway and air transport network that forms the lynchpin of China’s development plans for its central and western regions,” explained Fernandes. “With President Xi Jinping’s vision for ‘One Belt, One Road’, Zhengzhou is set to become even more important, not least as the heart of low-cost air travel in North Asia.”

AirAsia was the first foreign LCC to enter China in 2005 and it has carried more than 40m passengers on its flights to and from the country. AirAsia and AirAsia X currently fly to 15 destinations in China.

“Henan is very pleased to offer AirAsia a home in China. Zhengzhou was once the capital of ancient China; with AirAsia supporting the city’s aeropolis – an industrial, commercial and logistics zone five times the size of Manhattan with the airport at its heart – we have absolute confidence that we will succeed in transforming Zhengzhou into the new hub for global transport and logistics,” said the Henan government’s deputy governor, Shu Qing.

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