Cheaper international flights for Kiwis as Air Asia returns to New Zealand

One of the world’s cheapest airlines promises to slash fares for Kiwis as it announces a return to New Zealand.

Air Asia has confirmed this things travel that it has ambitious expansion plans, including a return to Auckland via Australia.

The flights would depart from Auckland, then cross the Tasman to an airport in Australia before continuing to Kuala Lumpur. Passengers could then connect to dozens of destinations across Asia, or to places like Istanbul and London.

The flights will be operated by AirAsia X, the airline’s long-haul arm, using 377-seat A330 aircraft.

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The airline last launched a route to Auckland in 2016 with fares of $99 to the Gold Coast and $249 to Kuala Lumpur.

As demand for travel has increased in the wake of the Covid-19 border closures, airfares have skyrocketed, resulting in fully booked flights across the Tasman Islands and one-way fares of up to $1000 to Sydney.

Air Asia flew to Christchurch in 2011.

WAYNNE WILLIAMS/witness

Air Asia flew to Christchurch in 2011.

Air New Zealand, Qantas and Jetstar are the main airlines currently flying over the Tasman – some services are also offered by Qatar and Latam Airlines.

But operators could face stiffer competition as Air Asia promises to offer “industry-leading” fares – in other words – the cheapest.

“AirAsia X has one of the lowest cost bases for medium and long-haul travel, so Kiwis can expect industry-leading, great-value fares from AirAsia X when we launch our services soon,” said Benyamin Ismail, the airline’s chief executive.

AirAsia X is keeping a low profile until it officially announces which airport its flights from Auckland to Australia will use. The Auckland to Gold Coast route took less than three years, with Benyamin citing stiff trans-Tasman competition at the time as one of the reasons for the route’s closure in 2019.

However, times have changed and following significant border closures over the past two years due to Covid-19, there is less competition on Tasman at the moment.

Air Asia X recently announced significant expansion following the Covid-19 grounding, resuming flights to South Korea and New Delhi. It also announced routes to Japan, Hawaii, London, Dubai, Istanbul, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Air Asia will also offer Kiwi discount fares to other popular Asian destinations such as Thailand, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea through its Kuala Lumpur hub.

“Kiwis love Asia and now that international borders are reopening in our key markets with fewer travel restrictions, we’re confident our services will be popular,” Benyamin said.

The airline promises to announce the start date and prices for its new route “in the near future”.

The airline will use A330 aircraft.

Dean Kozanic/Witness

The airline will use A330 aircraft.

Long-haul airlines that land in Australia sometimes add a trans-Tasman leg to their journey. Because not everyone returns immediately – and it’s expensive to park a plane at the airport for a day. Instead, it makes more sense to fly the plane back to New Zealand on a quick flight back and make money (or at least try).

AirAsia X has 11 A330-300 aircraft, all of which it hopes will be back in the air by October 2022. The company also intends to lease four additional aircraft, bringing the fleet to 15 by the end of the year.

The airline has ordered another 15 A330-900s.

AirAsia X first flew to New Zealand in April 2011, just months after the devastating earthquake. A little over a year later, the airline withdrew from the route, citing the increased cost of kerosene.