AirAsia X sees China overtaking Australia to become its largest market soon

SEPANG: AirAsia X Bhd expects its China operation to grow rapidly and surpass its Australia market and become the group’s largest market, as the airline increases the number of its destinations there.

The airline currently flies the most number of passengers between Malaysia and China, according to CEO Azran Osman-Rani.

“With Xi’an and another route to China to be announced soon, we expect China to surpass Australia 12 months after the new routes commence operations.

“Currently, Australia is the largest market for the group accounting for 33%-34% revenue and passengers load. China currently contributes about 25%,” Azran said at the launch of AirAsia’s inaugural flight to Xi’an by Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai at KLIA2 yesterday.

The inaugural flight from Kuala Lumpur to Xi’an carried 260 passengers with a load factor of 75%.

Azran said the carrier remained confident on China’s prospects.

Despite the challenges in the aviation industry, Azran said the group had been able to deliver load factor above 80%.

However, weak sentiment towards the aviation sector saw AirAsia X’s share price fall more than 30% year-to-date. Its share price closed at 69 sen yesterday.

Meanwhile, Liow said with China’s economic growth and population, he believed that there would be a strong demand for the Kuala Lumpur-Xi’an route.

“The extensive connectivity provided by AirAsia group will bridge and foster integration between both countries and will see Malaysia as the main aviation hub as we also look forward to fly more international and regional guests to China using Kuala Lumpur as its connecting gateway.

“In addition, I am very sure that this connectivity with Xi’an will spur tourist arrivals into Malaysia in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2014,” he said.

On Malaysia Airlines, Liow said that he would be meeting the management next week to discuss plans on the future of the airline.

“MAS is undergoing some difficult times. MAS needs to transform and everyone knows about it,” he said.

“It’s an important industry and that’s why we are looking at all the details.’’