AirAsia’s new Kota Kinabalu flights enjoy strong demand

An AirAsia Malaysia Airbus A320neo on the tarmac.
Melvinn (FN2187), CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Malaysia’s largest airline AirAsia is very confident that the newly launched routes between Kota Kinabalu, Borneo’s largest city, and the two Chinese cities of Beijing and Macao will continue to receive strong traction and demand. Both inaugural flights registered an impressive load factor of more than 90%!

Maiden flights

The inaugural flight from Beijing on the 2nd of July 2023 registered 172 passengers, which translates to 92%, and the inaugural flight to the gambling city of Macau recorded 171 passengers, or 91% full.

Both new services illustrate that there is significant customer demand for the routes and that the airline expects that demand will not dry down as time goes on for both routes. 

More impressive load factor news

AirAsia’s famed mid-haul airline, AirAsia X (AAX), has also inked an impressive load factor for its first flight from Chengdu (Tianfu) to Kuala Lumpur on 1st July 2023, with 376 passengers of 99% full!

This has resulted in AirAsia increasing the forecasted demand projection and saw the carrier upgrade the frequency from twice to thrice weekly not long ago.

The impressive load factor across the AirAsia board shows AirAsia’s commitment to revising regional tourism to Chinese cities, which allows AirAsia to increase capacity due to connecting demand within Malaysia and other major destinations popular for Chinese tourists. 


YB Datuk Christina Liew Minister of Tourism, Culture, and Environment Sabah, commented on the recent flights to China:

“The tourism scene is moving fast towards recovery, especially from China since its border reopening this year, and we are pleased to continue working with AirAsia to welcome more travelers into the state.”

“The impressive load factors from AirAsia will not only foster stronger international relations and open up new opportunities for economic growth and cultural exchanges for Sabah as a whole but also bring us a step closer to achieving our aim of registering more than 2.2 million tourist arrivals this year.”

“AirAsia’s daily flights from Beijing (Daxing) and four weekly flights from Macao will add to the current 1 00 international flights weekly into Sabah.”

“This signifies that we are on the right course for a steady tourism recovery and we welcome AirAsia’s commitment to increasing its flight frequencies and launching more flight services in support of the government’s relentless efforts to boost the tourism industry in Sabah.”

Riad Asmat AirAsia Malaysia CEO stated: “We are proud to continuously contribute to the tourism industry in Sabah. Kota Kinabalu has always been an important hub for us, and our Sabah network growth plays a significant role in our recovery strategy.”

“Currently, we operate 21 domestic and international routes to the state with a total of 300 flights weekly to/from Sabah, now with the addition of daily flights to/from Beijing and four weekly flights to/from Macao.”

“From 1st January to the first week of July this year, we have flown 2.1 million travelers to Sabah and with these additional direct flight connections, the numbers will continue to increase, contributing significantly to the number of tourist arrivals, boosting the economy in the state.”

“Moreover, with the strong demand for more China flights from this hub, we look forward to increasing the frequency and adding more routes in the future.”

“This would have not been possible without the support from our industry partners, especially Sabah Tourism Board and we would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support.” 

AirAsia Malaysia’s China operations 

AirAsia Malaysia (AK), the largest AirAsia brand of all, flies to 14 points to and from China from Malaysia, totaling over 104 flights.

This includes flights to and from Kuala Lumpur to Guilin, Quanzhou, Guangzhou, Kunming, Shenzhen, Nanning, Shantou, and Macao; Kota Kinabalu to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Beijing, and Macao; and Johor Bahru to Guangzhou.

AirAsia X, AirAsia’s airline mid-haul arm with A330s currently flies over 22 flights to and from China from Kuala Lumpur to Chengdu (Tianfu), Beijing (Daxing), Shanghai, and Hangzhou.

No AirAsia without China? 

At this point, the Chinese market is hard to ignore, or that is for low-cost airlines in South East Asia. Air Asia is recording one of the brightest moments after the pandemic hay-days and the airline is turning to the Chinese market for increasing revenue stream.

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By Indy Udol 5 Min Read
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