AirAsia kicks off city’s first direct flight to Kota Kinabalu

Celia Lao, CEO of AirAsia Hong Kong and Macau

AirAsia officially inaugurated the SAR’s first direct flight to Kota Kinabalu yesterday, marking the airline’s second Malaysian route and the seventh international destination from Macau.

This is the budget carrier’s third route to Kota Kinabalu this year after launching routes from Bangkok and Kunming.

According to Celia Lao, CEO of AirAsia Hong Kong and Macau, the route has been planned for a long time due to public demand.

“We could not find a good timing [to launch flights] from Kota Kinabualu to Macau [before]. At that time, the Macau market wasn’t mature enough, which is why we have been planning this route for a long time,” said Lao, implying that the launch of this route was intended to coincide with that of the Kuala Lumpur route.

“Since the infrastructure is ready […] we can bring in passengers not just from the Pearl River Delta. […] We see that it’s a good timing, this route has been requested by passengers for a long time,” she added.

The flight will operate four times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

Guests from Tawau, Sabah and Kuching, Sarawak can also fly to the SAR using the AirAsia Fly-Thru service for seamless transit via Kota Kinabalu.   

“We expect that this route will be another successful route because it’s unique. There are no other carriers flying from Macau to Kota Kinabalu,” Lao said.

“We can see in the passenger mix that there are Malaysians [flying to Macau] from the Sabah side, so we expect that in this route, we can achieve 70 percent of [that],” she added. She said AirAsia could offer daily flights if the demand is high.

Meanwhile, Malaysia CEO Riad Asmat noted that Kota Kinabalu is its second largest hub in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur and pledged to continue to grow its network from the Malaysian city.

The budget carrier will launch a Krabi route on December 1.

It is also set to launch a Cebu City route on February 8, offering promotional fares starting from MOP288.

Lao did not reveal whether the carrier would launch more flights next year, in addition to the Macau-Cebu route.

“We have many hubs now […] and it really depends on the market demand. It’s hard to say how many we can launch [next year] but if the market is there, why not? We are prepared to launch more flights from Macau,” said Lao.

Turkish flight remains a possibility

Eric Fong, director of the Marketing Department of Macau International Airport Company Ltd., noted that Southeast Asia is an important source market for Macau, given the growth of air passenger travel. According to statistics, passengers of the Southeast Asia market posted a year-on-year growth of 11 percent in the first three quarters of 2018.  Fong added that the airport will continue to upgrade the electronic check-in service in the future. Regarding whether Turkish Airlines will open a route to Macau, Fong said that the airport has been in talks to implement the route next year.

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