AirAsia Prepares Regional Routes To Spur Intra-Asean Travel

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AirAsia aims to spur intra-Asean travel with new regional routes, while Thai AirAsia hopes the Red War football match in July will drive demand from neighbours to Thailand.

The company is working on new destinations in Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia to replace the Chinese market, said Tony Fernandes, chief executive of Capital A, formerly AirAsia Group, which also owns Thai AirAsia via the AirAsia Aviation Group.

He said he already discussed with Thailand’s ministers regarding new international routes besides well-known destinations, such as Jakarta to Hua-Hin.

However, the implementation in Thailand will largely depend on COVID-19 tests and other travel regulations which remain the most critical obstacle for the industry.

Tassapon Bijleveld, executive chairman of Asia Aviation, the majority shareholder of Thai AirAsia (TAA), said the airline is preparing bundle packages for Manchester United and Liverpool football tournaments which combine match tickets and airline tickets.

The game will attract a number of sports fans, particularly from neighbouring countries as the viral situation should have subsided by July.

He said every country in Southeast Asia has to cooperate to ensure seamless tourism which can help offset the lack of travellers from China, Japan and South Korea who might resume international travel in the second half.

TAA plans to operate international flights to Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam next month with a target of 70-80% load factor in order to avoid losses.

He said travel regulations are the main concern for the airline as travel demand could not strongly rebound despite the reopening, so mandatory RT-PCR tests must be removed by the first half.

“We have to get back to the real world. The government must be brave because the current viral situation is not that severe compared to the previous waves as more Thais are already inoculated,” Mr Bijleveld said.

Capital A also focuses on the growth of AirAsia Super App, its travel and lifestyle platform, which officially launched in Thailand on Monday.

Varut Vutipongsatorn, country head of AirAsia Super App (Thailand), said it has built the foundation for the platform over the past year. This year it will expand business throughout the country, starting with the Northeast.

The goals in Thailand are to add 1-2 new services each year, increasing air travel bookings as well as bundle packages between air tickets and hotels by 20 times and 40 times, respectively, within 2026.

This year, food delivery will expand its service nationwide, while door-to-door delivery within each province under AirAsia Xpress and a ride-hailing taxi service will start from March.