Saturday January 6, 2007
X-citing deal for air travellers
By WONG SAI WAN and EDDIE CHUA
FAX founder and AirAsia chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes said the new airline will start operations in July but passengers can book their tickets from next month.
He said the airline, whose tagline is “Now Everyone Can Fly Extra-long”, plans to buy 20 aircraft to service the various routes it had been given by the Government on Thursday.
Initially, the company will lease aircraft to start its operations, Fernandes told a press conference after the launch by Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy.
Also present was Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.
The airline is considering buying either the Airbus A330 or the Boeing 777-300ER. The seat configuration will enable AirAsia X to carry about 400 passengers on each flight.
There will be two classes of seats – economy and super-economy.
“We will have extra-long seats for those who want comfort for long-haul flights, but of course it will cost more,” Fernandes said.
Like AirAsia, passengers will have to pay for their food as well as onboard entertainment.
FAX also signed a memorandum of understanding with AirAsia over the franchising of the AirAsia brand to the new airline. It is learnt that the Transport Ministry has granted AirAsia X landing rights at 36 international destinations in Asia, Europe and Australia. Among them are Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, Melbourne and Osaka.
Chan said the Government was still looking at which airport in London to grant the airline landing rights, but it would not be Heathrow or Gatwick.
The other two London airports available are Stanstead and Luton. Both are low-cost carrier hubs.
FAX chief executive officer Raja Azmi Raja Razali said the first three flights, in July, would be to Manchester, Hangzhou and Tianjin.
On negotiations with Virgin group’s Sir Richard Branson and EasyGroup’s Sir Stelios Haji-loannou, Fernandes said it was still on-going, but declined to elaborate.
“I know the two men very well and we have been speaking about it for quite a while,” he added.