Stansted hails low-cost Asia link
LONG-haul travel will return to Stansted Airport today with low-cost operator AirAsiaX launching a new route to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. The route - hailed as the first low-cost link between Europe and Asia - opened for bookings last November, with one-way fares starting at just �99, and the inaugural flight is due to touch down at the Essex airport this afternoon.
LONG-haul travel will return to Stansted Airport today with low-cost operator AirAsiaX launching a new route to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
The route - hailed as the first low-cost link between Europe and Asia - opened for bookings last November, with one-way fares starting at just �99, and the inaugural flight is due to touch down at the Essex airport this afternoon, where it will be greeted by HRH the Duke of York.
Stansted bosses see the service as the start of a new era for low-cost air travel, with AirAsiaX offering onward flights from Kuala Lumpur to Australian cities such as Perth and Melbourne and holiday destinations such as Bali and Phuket.
With prices from Kuala Lumpur to Australia starting at well under �100, it means that some UK travellers who are able to book far enough ahead to obtain the cheapest fares will be able to reach Australia for less than �200.
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Nick Barton, commercial and development director at Stansted, said the decision by AirAsiaX to go ahead with the launch despite the current economic climate illustrated the potential of the route.
“This route has been a long time in the making,” he said. “We started discussions with the AirAsia chief executive in November 2006, so it will be fantastic to see the first aircraft turn up.
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“However, the thought which has gone into the route makes me very confident in the product. I think this is a tremendous vote of confidence in the business case for this route.”
The new route will be served by an Airbus A340 aircraft with capacity for 286 passengers, including 30 premium XL seats. It will initially operate five days a week, although Mr Barton said he was hopeful that it would become daily “very soon”.
He said that while the price of flights would vary according to demand, the typical cost of a one-way journey from Stanstead to Kuala Lumpur was likely to be around �150. Onward flights from Kuala Lumpur to destinations in Australia could be booked yesterday from as little as �18, he added.
AirAsia Group chief executive Tony Fernandes said: “Since Sir Freddie Laker's Skytrain, no airline has ever managed to carry passengers this far at such low fares. With this global platform, we are making the world much smaller and cheaper for everyone to connect to each other.
“This is a revolutionary moment for the aviation industry and a great day for passengers, who can have an amazing Asian experience for the price of travelling to Europe.”
Stansted will gain another long-haul route from the end of this month when Pakistan International Airlines is due to re-launch a service to Dubai and onwards to Islamabad and Lahore.
The new routes come as a welcome boost for the airport which saw its last US long-haul operator, American Airlines, withdraw last May. This followed the collapse of the business-only airlines Eos, in April 2008, and MAXjet, on Christmas Eve 2007, which also operated trans-Atlantic services out of Stansted.