Thursday, May 24, 2007

First Air Asia X Destination could be in Asia-Pacific

Long-haul low-cost carrier AirAsia X has rescheduled its inaugural flight from July to September and is targeting a city in Asia-Pacific instead of the much-publicised London destination.

“Instead of this year, London may come early next year with possibly a stop in the Middle East,” said a source.

The team at Fly Asian Xpress Sdn Bhd (FAX), the operating company for AirAsia X, is working feverishly to complete talks on landing rights for the inaugural flight before launching its website for travellers to make their bookings.

In a related development, FAX yesterday named Azran Osman-Rani as its new chief executive officer effective July 2.

Azran is the second senior executive from Astro All Asia Networks plc to join FAX after Senthil Balan was appointed to the new carrier's senior management team over a month ago.

Besides that, Gareth Lim, formerly from Morgan Stanley, and US-based Jet Blue Airlines’ Tim Claydon are also now with FAX. AirAsia Bhd has also seen some employees crossing over to FAX, its sister company.

And in the coming weeks, it would be no surprise if some senior executives from rival Malaysia Airlines (MAS) walk over to FAX.

“Some senior executives at MAS have indicated interest to join FAX. The airline is evaluating several of the applications,” said the source. FAX currently has a team of 20 people, including the senior management team who number less than 10.

FAX said Azran was senior director of business affairs at Astro and he succeeds Raja Mohd Azmi, who has been appointed FAX director.

While FAX readies itself for AirAsia X to get off the ground in September, its rivals are not sitting idle.

In fact, they are just waiting for a clue to drop prices to match FAX’s much promised “very low fares.” Neither MAS nor Singapore Airlines is going to let its market share slip in any of the destinations that AirAsia X would be plying in the future.

Long-haul airfares are certainly going to drop but the quantum will pretty much depend on the intensity of competition. In his new role, Azran will have to ensure that the sectors AirAsia X decides to ply would offer better value than the incumbent players.

Azran, according to the source, not only has to implement a business plan but also be involved in the negotiations for landing rights in a very tight timeframe.

Source : STAR
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