AirAsia X Plans To Fly To US West Coast Using A330-900neos

Filed Under: Other Airlines

For those of you who may not be familiar with AirAsia, they are Asia’s biggest low cost airline. I’ve flown them several times, and found them to be fantastic at what they do. They offer unbelievably cheap fares on short hops around Southeast Asia, as well as longer flights to Northern Asia, and Australia.

For example, last year I needed to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore. This is a flight of less than an hour, so the carrier really didn’t matter. I booked an AirAsia flight for around USD$20 only a month in advance — that is incredible value, and the flight was perfectly fine.

Want to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok next weekend? Expect to pay top prices for a last minute flight?

AirAsia X

AirAsia X is the long haul arm of the AirAsia family. They did attempt flights to London and Paris many years ago, but the economics of long haul, low cost flights just didn’t add up at the time. But we have seen a huge increase in this model in the last 12 months, especially from the likes of Norwegian, which can fill planes on long haul flights at low prices.

AirAsia X already flies from their largest hub in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Hawaii in the US, via Osaka Kansai. However they really want to service the mainland USA, starting with West Coast cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The only thing stopping them is that they don’t have any aircraft that can fly that far. While other low cost carriers like Norwegian and Scoot have invested in Boeing 787 Dreamliners, AirAsia X hasn’t.

But they do have as astonishing one HUNDRED Airbus A330-900 aircraft on order, with deliveries from 2019, and this opens up new route opportunities for them. AirAsia Group CEO and Founder Tony Fernandez has told Nikkei Asia Review that they are assessing the best West Coast USA city to launch their new aircraft to. He has said:

If I were I betting man, you’d probably say Los Angeles first. But both have very large Asian communities as well. Both cities [Los Angeles and San Francisco] that people want to fly to, anyway. We haven’t finished the evaluation but that is definitely our plan.

Las Vegas is also in the cards.

Now, the A300-900neo has a range of 7,200 miles, but the distance between Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles, where I assume AirAsia would want to launch any new long haul flights from, is 8,800 miles. So these flights will have to stop somewhere along the way. Tony Fernandez has indicated that the West Coast USA flights will route via Japan, presumably either Tokyo or Osaka.

The Japan to Los Angeles leg is well within the range of the A330-900neo, at around 5,500 miles.

AirAsia loves Tokyo as a connecting hub because they believe its one of the most central locations in the world.

There’s obviously huge competition already on the Tokyo to Los Angeles route, but these are from full service carriers with higher cost bases. I do think there’s plenty of opportunity for a low cost carrier to enter the market, and AirAsia really knows what they are doing transporting passengers around Asia, at least.

Bottom line

There are currently no direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles, or Bangkok to Los Angeles for that matter (Don Mueang airport is AirAsia Group’s second biggest hub). My limit for low cost flights tops out at about 6 hours, but while AirAsia is low cost, and the stop in Japan on the way to the West Coast USA isn’t ideal, there will be plenty of passengers at the right price.

Would you fly AirAsia between Kuala Lumpur and Los Angeles for the right price?

  1. Flying almost exclusively in first class (Paid ticket), I would be interested if they decide to introduce some first class service in the foreseeable future.

  2. They’ll also probably have a premium product on the A330-900NEOs as well (any guesses?), which will create its own market, since it’ll probably be priced at less than normal business class products. Since they went lie-flat on the A330, they probably won’t go back to a more basic product, so their premium product will probably have a lot of demand (think Norweigan premium economy)

  3. I would absolutely fly them. I just flew the Osaka – Honolulu route. I paid $99 for the flight. Paid an extra $30 for the quiet zone, watched the seat map and wound up with an entire row for each of the four people I flew with. Poor man’s business for $130! The people who didn’t pay for the seat assignments were packed in though. The flight was on time and the crew treated us better than on the American flight over to Japan.

  4. American 3 are unpatriotic. They will squeeze American travelers till they get good decent competition.

    Their greed had ensured that competition arrives in the form if low cost alternatives. We need to patronize these low cost carriers to make sure American 3 do not have oligopolistic power.

  5. Yea good luck to them for that.
    Why risk getting DVT just to save a few bucks. This isn’t a 2 hour flight. We’re talking 14 hours here. In a 3-3-3 A330 no less.
    Beyond ridiculous.

    Want to save even more money?
    Just don’t fly!

  6. I would fly their their premium seats anytime. Took it to Mumbai and it was more than fine. Only issue was no seatback entertainment

  7. @MauricioMatos He’s originally from a place in India where Portuguese had claimed the area until 1980. But his ancestor is Indian not Portuguese.

  8. I just had a travel bucket list vision (assuming this doesn’t exist today): a nonstop from Vegas to Macau for all the gambling addicts who have the money…like me in hopefully 10-ish years 🙂

  9. @Adarsh

    Being Portuguese myself, I know very well the history of Goa so I know that…and by the way, Goa went back to India in 1961, not in 1980. Anyway, when I talked about ancestors, I wasn’t talking about his parents. I was going way back in time just to explain why his name is with a S and not with a Z 🙂

  10. AirAsia holds its costs down by training its own pilots. Anyone can join their flight academy and be trained to be a pilot as long as they agree to work a certain no of years with AirAsia. By now they have some 10-15 yrs experienced pilots who are looking for the next challenge. Over the water to US is a fine challenge.

  11. @John

    Again, I know that. I wasn’t talking about his parents. With a simple wikipedia search you can see that his mother has come Portuguese blood, hence the name.

  12. the $20 base fares are amazing, but how much does it really end up costing if you have luggage, etc?

  13. Last I heard, AirAsia X was planning to have another pop at flights to Europe – it seems to badge of prestige to make this work although no timeframes has been set since the aborted plan to fly to Barcelona.

    Incidently my brothers Malaysian friend tried the London route when it launched a few years back. He said it ended up costing almost the same as other full service carriers after adding all he needed but wanted to try it – the flights themselves were fine but not sure he would do it again given the cost. I think if there’s anyone who can make low-cost long-haul work it is AirAsia, they have a competitive cost base, good reputation and capital behind them. Their main challenges are lack of brand recognition outside of Asia and economics of long-haul – I am not convinced the margin is there to make it viable without being as expensive as full service carriers. Especially when you consider the over-capacity eastwards with the flurry of Chinese carriers offering rock bottom fares. Still they’re in a better position than Norwegian…

  14. I think it will be a resounding success. Air Asia can easily undercut carriers flying between Japan and the US as both Japanese and US carriers have high cost bases and are very premium focussed. JAL and ANA have small premium cabins.

    I can see some challenges on SEA to US traffic from Chinese carriers who price very aggressively however air asia has a lower cost base and moreover can optimize yields by balancing japan and se asia traffic. I believe they will be more successful on these routes versus europe where me3 carriers are more formidable competition.

    Personally i would opt for the air asia angled beds anyday over a regular premium economy seat on a long haul flight. They may need a larger premium cabin on these routes though.

  15. Flying mostly paid BC myself, I have used Air Asia a few times because of better point to point connections. Planes are clean, they are punctual and prices are incredibly low.
    The only drawback is that check-in is time consuming with many first time flyers who need a bit more time to go through the motions.

  16. @James, please have someone proofread/edit your posts. I really enjoy your contributions, but they’re getting rather painful to read…

  17. @debit, I think you’ll find that outside of North America, US-based airlines already have very little reach, in fact they are practically invisible.

    This is a very interesting proposal and you’re right @James, it will work now (as opposed to 5 years ago). Norwegian and Scoot can do it Asia-Europe, so Asia-NA low cost is definitely on the cards. I’ve no doubt they’ll make the planes reasonably comfortable as well as offering a premium product. These low cost-then upgrade models work really well and are pretty good value for those that only want comfortable seats/leg room and not too bothered with first-class meals, etc. Service on Air Asia is already very good so no dramas there.

  18. I would never fly any low cost shit airlines on a short flight much less a long haul. Anyone who will fly this is dumb or stupid.

  19. @A

    Happy to be dumb or stupid your eyes . I have flown at least 8 short haul flights on Air Asia and have enjoyed every one.

    I would fly long haul in Business Class for sure if I did not have the points. Likely 1/2 the price or even less. And for me, I think it will be more than comfortable based on the $ savings.

  20. I flew Air Asia X from NRT to DPS last year. The flight wasn’t too bad. We upgraded to Premium Flex and that mini cabin was empty. The flight was 7+ hours.

  21. I use Air Asia out of Manila. They are super competitive domestically (although the domestic T4 sucks), and also across SE Asia (T3 for international – a much better terminal). But be aware that unless you are traveling alone, you should factor the extra cost of seat allocation into your comparison. Whereas most other airlines will allow you free choice of available seats when checking in online, Air Asia literally cheats. I booked to travel to Tapei a few weeks ago with 3 others. Their online booking system allocated us 4 seats randomly through the cabin. No problem I thought – I can tidy that up at check-in. When I went through online check-in, the seat page showed every zero cost seat as unavailable and only the paid for seat allocations at the front were available. The only way I could get even 3 seats together was to pay up. When I boarded the flight and saw it less than 50% full I realize what AA had done. I felt cheated. So when comparing ticket prices with other carriers who are more relaxed about online check-in seat selection (such as Cebu Pacific), add the seat allocation cost to the AA fare. Everything is a chargeable extra. That’s ok, but understand what you are getting up front.

  22. Be aware what you get when you book on Air Asia. You have to declare how many kg of luggage when you book your ticket, or the price per kg increases many-fold. I was choking on some spicy food (ordered at initial booking), and couldn’t get a glass of water — had to buy a bottle. Think Spirit Air on a trans-Pacific run. I’ll pass.

  23. I always take an empty bottle through security and fill it up at a drinking fountain – when in economy obviously. AirAsia – it is what it is and you gotta go in with eyes open and make it work for you. But when you need to get around SE Asia cheaply because your points are better used for European/American travel, AirAsia is a pragmatic choice. Plus it’s so cheap you’d be mad to burn points on a more costly competitor.

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