Posted on: 11 July 2011 by Mark Howells
AirAsia X is to switch its Kuala Lumpur to London service to Gatwick Airport instead of Stansted from 24 October 2011.
After jokingly explaining that the move is not due to Group CEO Tony Fernandes purchase of nearby Caterham cars, AirAsia X chief executive, Azran Osman-Rani, declared that the primary reason for the change is popular demand.
“People wanted a more convenient gateway,” Osman-Rani explained. “Regretfully, some in east London and Essex will not be too happy but the business is brutal and we need to be able to make this route work.
“I’d like to acknowledge the team at Stansted and thank them for all their efforts. Unfortunately times have changed and UK air passenger duty (APD) has caused a difference. Stansted as a gateway has diminished as APD has gone up and that looks likely to reduce further with the beginning of ETS next year,” Osman-Rani added. “We’ve even seen on our Paris–KL route a great deal more UK travellers because of APD.
“Gatwick is important because the catchment is greater. And nowadays there are more connections there.”
Gatwick Airport CEO, Stewart Wingate, declared the move “great news” for the 15 million people who live within one hour’s drive of the airport. “It’s our first foray into southeast Asia and also gives connectivity opportunities for travellers to go through KL to the rest of the ASEAN region and onto Australia and New Zealand,” he commented.
As the former CEO of Stansted, Wingate noted that the airport’s services are now predominantly – between 70% and 80% – operated by Ryanair, with the next biggest being easyJet which is moving some aircraft to Southend.
“At Gatwick, we’ve seen Air Berlin and Norwegian move there in recent years, with Norwegian building its presence considerably. We also have the likes of Flybe, Ryanair, easyJet – plus the charter carriers, many of which are now offering scheduled low-fare services,” added Wingate.
AirAsia X’s load factors from STN have been just under 80%, but Osman-Rani expects that to go higher from LGW. “We also hope to get a bit of yield lift,” he remarked.
Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/LARAnews.net