Drop in fuel prices pushes carrier to launch first U.S. flights
The long haul arm of Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd plans to launch its first U.S. flights in November, with the drop in fuel prices helping revive a push into intercontinental service that the airline curtailed three years ago.
AirAsia X plans to start four weekly flights between Kuala Lumpur and Honolulu on Nov. 1, according to a regulatory filing published Monday, with a refueling stop in Osaka.
The planned service is a rare foray by a budget carrier into long haul flights, a market where no-frills service and fast aircraft turnaround times offer less of an advantage over traditional airlines than on shorter flights.
AirAsia X abandoned flights between the Malaysian capital and London and Paris in 2012 because of soaring fuel prices. It currently serves 18 cities in Asia and Australasia and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia with a fleet of 23 Airbus Group NV A330 jets.
Asia’s largest budget airline group includes three long haul affiliates based in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, with a new management team curtailing capacity growth in recent months because of overcapacity in some markets.
The planned Honolulu flights would be the first direct service between Malaysia and Hawaii. Japan remains by far the largest source of Asian visitors to the state, though that market has been pressured by the dollar’s appreciation against the yen.
Hawaiian Holdings Inc., parent of Hawaiian Airlines, has expanded its international service in recent years with services to Japan, Australia and Korea, though much of the islands’ tourists arrive on charter flights provided by a number of carriers.
Most other budget carriers have eschewed long haul flights, though Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA operates flights to the U.S. and Asia from Scandinavia and London. Ryanair Holdings PLC recently rejected speculation that it was ready to revive its long-discussed proposal to start trans-Atlantic services when it could secure appropriate aircraft.