In a report from the Nikkei Asian Review, the AirAsia Group has set its sights to bring its brand of low cost travel on flights from Asia to the US West Coast.
According to AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes, AirAsia is currently looking at starting flights to Los Angeles and San Francisco from Kuala Lumpur via Japan. Beyond the US West Coast, Fernandes also stated flights to Europe are also being considered.
"Japan serves as a fantastic hub for us, as it only takes 12 hours to L.A. or San Francisco, as well as 10 hours to Europe," said Fernandes. He added that among the routes being considered, Los Angeles appears to be the first to be considered. "If I were I betting man, you'd probably say Los Angeles first. But both have very large Asian communities as well. Both [are destinations] that people want to fly to, anyway. We haven't finished the evaluation but that is definitely our plan," Fernandes added.
Before the routes could be launched, AirAsia would have to wait for the arrival of the first of 100 Airbus A330neo aircraft which is expected to start near the end of 2019. AirAsia's current fleet of widebody aircraft - comprised of A330-300s - do not have the range to make the trans-Pacific flight from Japan to the US.
A launch of flights to Los Angeles or San Francisco won't be the first forray into the US by AirAsia. In the fall of 2017, AirAsia X launched flights from Kuala Lumpur to Honolulu, Hawaii. The services to Hawaii makes a stop in Osaka, Japan along the way. Starting with a thrice-weekly service, it has recently added an extra frequency citing an interest from Hawaii residents travelling to Southeast Asia.
Even as travellers will have to wait a while to fly with AirAsia to LA or San Francisco, Fernandes' statement is going to make existing legacy carriers operating trans-Pacific flights uneasy. Anywhere it has gone, AirAsia has been one of the biggest influence ob the aviation industry in Asia. It has not only brought lower fares but the addition of routes most legacy carriers have never served.
Because of the growth of low cost travel in Asia, legacy carriers such as Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, and even Singapore Airlines have a stake in or now own a subsidiary low cost carrier. Legacy carriers in Asia have also seen their share of the market cut thanks to lower fares brought on by Chinese airlines on lucrative routes to/from North America.
Many travellers will look forward to lower airfares on the Asia-North America travel route, which has not yet been affected by the likes of AirAsia.