August 08, 2012 00:00
By BAMRUNG AMNATCHAROENRIT
AirAsia, Asia's biggest low-cost carrier, has revised its fleet-expansion plan from 200 aircraft to 375 over the next five years to serve growing air travel in the Asean market.
It attributes the region’s economic prosperity – driven by the launch of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 – to this need for more aircraft.
Currently, there are 105 aircraft in its fleet, including AirAsia X brand, flying long-haul flights from its head office base in Kuala Lumpur to Japan, Australia, Nepal and South Korea.
Thailand is Asean’s second-biggest market for AirAsia behind Malaysia. Thai AirAsia plans to increase its fleet with eight new aircraft annually over the next five years, up from six under the previous plan. Currently, it flies 24 aircraft and its number will increase to 27 by the end of this year.
Tassapon Bijleveld, Thai AirAsia’s chief executive officer, said Thailand continued to offer solid potential for the future, with the possibility of 100 aircraft in its fleet. Small cities across the nation such as Nan and Loei have shown special business opportunities. At present, its airline flies only from key destinations.
Under its fleet expansion in Thailand, it will create 800-900 new staff positions annually including pilots, technicians and ground service staff. Currently, 3,000 employees work with the company.
Tassapon yesterday officially opened AirAsia Asean’s office in Jakarta, underlining its Asean brand. Tony Fernandes, group CEO of AirAsia, also presided over the ceremony.
Currently, AirAsia Group operates offices in Indonesia, Philippines and Japan.
“No single domestic market in Asean, not even Indonesia, can match the potential of a regional market of 600 million,” Fernandes said.
Last year, 73 million foreign travellers visited the Asean region. AirAsia carried 30 million passengers across the region and 53 per cent of them were intra-Asean travellers.
Thai AirAsia alone expects to carry 8 million passengers this year. At present, its airline operates 160 flights from Suvarnabhumi Airport, both taking off and landing.
Beyond Asean, Tassapon said Thai AirAsia would focus more on the major markets of China and India.