Long-haul low-cost carrier AirAsia X to offer kids-free ‘Quiet Zone’ onboard

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By Raymond Kollau,

Two recent surveys conducted by TripAdvisor found that 40 percent of U.S. travellers said they would pay extra to sit in a designated quiet section of the plane, while nearly 80 percent of Britons agreed there should be child-free zones on board, and a third of of respondents would pay more for their flight if there were no children on board.

Quiet Zone
Following a controversial decision by Malaysia Airlines to introduce a ‘child-free cabin’ on the upper deck of its new A380 superjumbo (Business and Economy), Malaysia-based long-haul low-cost carrier AirAsia X has announced it will be launching a so-called ‘Quiet Zone’ on its fleet of Airbus A330s.

Starting in February 2013, the airline will create a “Quiet Zone” in the front section of its widebody aircraft, located between the airline’s Premium Class section and the front galley. Children younger than 12 years old will not be able to book seats in the Quiet Zone, and passengers opting for the zone will be asked to keep noise to a minimum, while there will also be special ambient lighting in the cabin. Passenger will also be among the first to disembark.

The dedicated zone will consist of the first eight rows of the Economy section (rows 7 to 14), and  as the front area already houses the airline’s Premium Class, turning this part of the aircraft into a Quiet Zone will also be appreciated by AirAsia X’s premium passengers.
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Innovative Airlines 2012: #9 AirAsia

By Vivek Mayasandra

In 2001, when CEO Tony Fernandes bought AirAsia for a token MYR1 plus MYR40 million (USD 12.5mln) debt, it was a failing state-owned regional carrier with only two aircraft. In just a decade, the Kuala Lumpur-based low-cost carrier (LCC) has become a pan-Asian airline group serving over 75 destinations with a fleet of over 100 aircraft. In June 2011 the airline signed an USD 18bn deal with Airbus for the delivery of 200 A320s over 15 years. Besides owning a stake in its long-haul sister airline AirAsiaX, AirAsia has local subsidiaries in Thailand and Indonesia, joint ventures in the Philippines and Vietnam, while an agreement with All Nippon Airways will see AirAsia Japan take to the skies in August 2012.

One of AirAsia’s key advantages lies in being in the right place at the right time. The airline’s pace of growth – which has made it Asia’s largest LCC with a market capitalization of USD 3 billion – is underpinned by emerging regional Asian economies, whose average annual growth rates of around 7 percent are continually lifting millions more people every year to an economic level at which budget airline flights are affordable.

AirAsia’s stated goal is to be “the lowest cost airline in every market they serve” and its rigorous focus on expenses saw the airline charging a fee for passengers who want to use check-in desks at airports. While this now only applies to domestic passengers, it’s just one example that has led AirAsia to operate with the world’s lowest unit costs (in terms of available seat kilometres), which are lower than both Southwest Airlines in the US – who invented the low-cost model – and Europe’s ultra low-cost carrier Ryanair.

In the air, AirAsia is a classic LCC that offers few additional frills. AirAsia’s fleet of more than 100 A320 aircraft all have 186 leather seats and passengers pay for checked bags, can reserve their seat for a fee and buy their food and beverages onboard. On the ground at its hub at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, however, AirAsia has added more hybrid features such as a ‘Fly-Thru’ transit service for connecting passengers with flight transfers of at least 90 minutes. In March 2011, the airline launched a ‘Red Carpet’ service at 8 airports, including Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Jakarta, where for a fee of approximately USD35 passengers can make use of priority check-in, fast track through security, lounge access, as well as priority boarding and luggage arrival. Additionally, in 2011, AirAsia launched its own frequent flyer program and is also trialling one of the world’s first onboard immigration processes.
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Asia-Pacific long-haul low-cost airlines getting ready for further expansion

Asia’s fragmented geography makes air travel an attractive option. Especially low-cost airlines have allowed many Asians to travel by plane for the first time, and there is major scope for LCC growth on medium and long-haul routes as the rapidly growing middle classes of Asia are increasingly traveling longer distances. Market liberalisation is the other growth engine, with the opening of new routes between secondary destinations, especially in China, India and Southeast Asia. 

Low-cost carriers already fly many 5-hour routes across Asia, such as Jin Air and Jeju Air from Seoul to Bangkok, and Tiger Airways from Singapore to destinations in Greater China. Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air also has plans to expand its regional network to China, Japan and South Korea. According to Airbus in 2009 Asian budget carriers flew an average 1,800 kilometres per flight. In comparison, the average flight length for Southwest Airlines (USA) was 1,019 km, and 978 km for Easyjet (Europe). The Asia-Pacific region is also home to 2 of the 3 long-haul low-cost airlines in the world, AirAsia X and Jetstar (airberlin is the third one). Read full article

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EasyJet and AirAsia expand their no-frills hotels

Low-cost airlines easyJet and AirAsia have both extended their no-frills concept to the hotel sector. Similar to low-cost airlines, easyHotel and are keeping rates low by offering limited service and a pay-as-you-use system for extra amenities such as towels. The no-frills hotels encourage guests to book online and the further people book their stay, the cheaper the room. With small, clean and modern rooms, they cater to those on a budget, and tourists who spend most of their time sightseeing. Says’s CEO, Mark Lankester: “[Our guests] appreciate being able to spend less on a room they will only really spend a few hours in, while still having peace of mind that they will be getting a good, safe night’s sleep at the end of a full day.” 

In August 2005, easyHotel opened its first property in London’s Earls Court and it just opened its 12th location in Berlin, and its next opening will be in Porto in summer 2010. The budget hotel will also unveil its first property outside Europe, in Dubai, later in 2010. Chargeable facilities including satellite TV, wifi, luggage storage and extra towels. The group now has six properties open in London (including hotels at Heathrow and Luton airports), as well as hotels in Basel, Zurich, Budapest, Sofia, and Cyprus. Room prices start at EUR 15 to 25 per night.
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Kingfisher Airlines launches same-day parcel delivery service

In a bid to improve ancillary revenue, Indian airline Kingfisher just launched Kingfisher Xpress, a door-to-door cargo delivery service. The service will offer a pick up facility in the 6 main metropolitan cities of India (Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kolkata) with same day delivery in 18 cities across India. The airline will also offer a next-day delivery service across 20 cities in India. Kingfisher says the service is India’s first and only same-day delivery by air service, with a money-back guarantee if the parcel isn’t picked and delivered on the same day, door to door. 

Kingfisher is not the first airline to launch an express delivery service. In July 2009, budget carrier AirAsia launched ‘Redbox’ (recently rebranded as ‘Courier’), which it said was the world’s first low-cost courier service. With fares 50 percent cheaper than its rivals, Redbox/Courier is targeted at small and medium enterprises and individual customers. AirAsia is transporting the packages from airport to airport while its partner DHL is picking up and delivering them. The low-cost carrier also partnered with UPS-subsidiary Mail Boxes Etc (MBE) to enable customers to drop off their packages at MBE’s 17 outlets in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. AirAsia said the courier service would initially operate only within Malaysia, but would expand to all destinations that AirAsia and AirAsia X fly to.
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Long-haul low-cost carrier AirAsia X goes lie-flat in Business Class

AirAsia X, the long-haul operation of budget carrier AirAsia, has been growing rapidly to eight planes serving eight destinations today. In the second half of 2010, the carrier will add 4 new aircraft as part of its order of 25 A330s. The long-haul low-cost carrier currently flies from Kuala Lumpur to London (Stansted), Australia (Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth), China (Hangzhou, Tianjin, Chengdu) and Taipei, and in 2010 will launch services to Sydney, Mumbai and New Delhi (it will also discontinue its route to Abu Dhabi due to a lack of demand). Plans for flights to Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka) as well as more Chinese destinations (Xi’an, Wuhan and Shenyang) are also on the table.

In a move to improve its premium product and increase the density in its economy class, AirAsia X is upgrading its business class to lie-flat seats. The seats are slightly angled, so they are not 180 degree flat, but AirAsia X claims it is the first budget airline to offer passengers a premium seat like this. The 28 ‘non-reclining’ black leather seats on AirAsia X’s 6 A330s will be replaced with 12 lie-flat beds, since, according to AirAsia X, the economics are very similar between 28 premium economy seats and 12 lie-flat bed seats, and therefore it might as well opt for the latter and up the quality of its  product. The carrier will also replace the current 30 recliner seats on its 2 A340s with 18 lie-flat seats.
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