Will AirAsia X and Thai Airways be Based in Kazakhstan?

An AirAsia X A330 taxiing.
Bidgee, CC BY-SA 3.0 AU, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – Sources show that Kazakhstan will be the place for the two entities – Thai Airways and AirAsia X to operate fifth freedom flights to Europe . How is this model giving a lifeline for long-haul low-cost carriers? 

In the foreseeable coming months, Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia wants to significantly increase it’s footprint in Central Asia’s largest country of Kazakhstan. The long-haul carrier plans to increase its presence in doing so by introducing fifth-freedom flights.

This intention was witnessed by related parties and also presented before Kairbek Uskenbayev, Minister of Infrastructure of Kazakhstan.

Initially, in the first phase, AirAsia X will operate its inaugural flight to Almaty, the country’s largest economic hub from Kuala Lumpur. Flights from the Thai capital of Bangkok will follow suit, depending on demand feedback and cabin load factors from Malaysia. Both cities will fly to Almaty and be served four times a week in the initial phases of the launch.

The second phase will witness the launch of flights to Nur-Sultan, the country’s capital formerly known as Astana. However, flights to the capital are reduced to only a thrice weekly flight. 

Under the fifth freedom arrangement, flights will be flown to major European destinations like Istanbul, Paris, Frankfurt and London, which are major sources of inbound flow of traffic to the two South East Asian cities. AirAsia X also explores the possibility of having a virtual hub to be created in both Nur-Sultan and Astana.

This is to give the best options for both Thai and Malaysian originating passengers options and freedom and make a transfer within Kazakhstan possible, to allow tourism in the Central Asian country as well. This will certainly complement the economic growth of Kazakhstan as a dual hub strategy by allowing transiting passengers to visit the country. 

Death of Ultra-Long Haul Low-Cost Transcontinental?

One could not certainly rule out this statement clearly as only one airline is still flying between the regions of South East Asia and Europe, and that is Scoot Air, performing the Singapore-Athens-Berlin route.

The Singaporean low-cost carrier also recently axed the Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi – London-Gatwick route a couple of weeks back due to numerous operational considerations. Certainly, it is no secret that AirAsia X fancied resurrecting such routes between Malaysia, Thailand and Europe, but did not manage to do so, with the exception of Bangkok to Tbilisi.

The establishment of the dual hub system will allow operational efficiency and would financially justify AirAsia X again to re-fly European routes. This will hold true for passengers or revenue collection originating from the South East Asian End, whereby in this case; Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are ‘spokes’ and Astana are the ‘hub’.

AirAsia X will gain at least somewhat enough financial efficiencies to operate to Europe from Kazakhstan, knowing that the revenue streams from originating ends from Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur are complementing one another.

In other words, Long Haul low-cost carriers may still have a grasp in the transcontinental market depending on the scheduling and demanding forecasting model they based themselves on. This is the case for AirAsia X

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