Change Your Altitude

Big News: Air Asia to Begin US Operations in 2017

Not quite sure how this has slipped under the radar but it seems as though a major player in Asia is now entering American skies after having ventured into Australia and Europe.

It’s also interesting to see what destination is intended to be the launch city – it’s not your normal selections of JFK, LAX or SFO.

The Scoop:

Air Asia X, the long haul low cost arm of Air Asia, has announced that within the first half of 2017 new long haul operations will begin to the United States – with Honolulu being the first city to see that gorgeous red A330 touch down.

Details are rather sparse right now regarding specific timings and days of operation (we’re doubtful it’ll be daily, at least to start off with) but we do know a few things about this new Honolulu (HNL) service.

Flights will be operated by the carrier’s brand new long haul configured A330-300 fleet with 12 lie flat seats in Business Class (priced at similar levels of Premium Economy on other carriers) in a comfortable 2-2-2 configuration – which basically means two rows of Biz – intimate. And in economy you have 365 seats in a nightmare 3-3-3 layout (on an Airbus!!), at least until row 45 where the fuselage tapers into a 2-3-2 seating layout. Woof.

Air Asia’s Business Class seat might be considered a steal given that it’s priced at Premium Economy levels. Not a bad way to cross the Pacific, it must be said. Now Economy Class at 3-3-3 is a whole other topic!

Flights will operate via Osaka Kansai (KIX) – after a brief pit stop there the aircraft will continue on to Honolulu. Air Asia will have rights to fly passengers between Kuala Lumpur and Osaka and also sell tickets originating in Osaka for the final sector to HNL. While the airline already has existing flights to Osaka, it is understood that the Hawaii service will be a standalone service and be added on top of current operations. Air Asia has the rights to fly to the US from any city in Japan with the exception of Tokyo without having to apply for approval and individual sector tickets can be sold as well.

From what we understand, Air Asia has applied for and received permits to be able to fly into the United States and has passed all necessary regulatory and safety checks so it does seem as though the airline has received the all clear to begin this flight, which seems to be imminent.

Air Asia will soon be soaring into American skies in 2017 by way of Honolulu!

The Takeaway:

This is huge news for the Air Asia group – they’ve grown on such an exponential level and we’re losing count of the number of individual country franchises they’re opening. They’ve all but buried Malaysia Airlines on the regional market, and as they expand further internationally they will start to pose a greater threat to their local competitors. Australia has been a success thus far for Air Asia X, and Europe is doing much better given their new fleet in comparison to the old A340s they originally started London with. Tehran is also due to be opened soon along with Istanbul – things look to be thriving at the low cost carrier.

Opening Honolulu first also makes so much sense for the airline – it follows the trend of beach destinations that Air Asia X serves, given their clientele. For example rather than flying to Brisbane, the airline flies directly to the Gold Coast from Kuala Lumpur – and that flight continues on to Auckland, New Zealand.

Sound familiar?

This is why we weren’t at all surprised to hear HNL would be first in the United States before any of the big hitters. It follows Air Asia X’s line of opening new routes and caters to their market well. And hmm…a flight from Osaka to Honolulu…? It’s going to do well. We all know the Japanese love them some Hawaii.

Jetting off to beautiful Waikiki Beach on Oahu, pictured here with the iconic Diamond Head in the background, just became a hell of a lot cheaper through this new Air Asia service.

For those of us based in Asia, it’s a great addition for cheap – and while we don’t know what fares will look like yet – we’re talking cheap – flight options to the United States.

Now I’d never take the flight in their 3-3-3 layout in coach, but many would at the fares we’re likely to see Air Asia offer them at. The flight will also connect will with Air Asia’s simply massive netowrk out of Kuala Lumpur and will also have the feed of Air Asia Japan at Osaka – so it’ll be possible to book a seamless itinerary with a connection at either hub onwards to Honolulu.

Hawaii just became a viable option a stop or two away for many people. That’s always great. Air Asia’s motto is “Now Everyone Can Fly”…and in this case, it’s to Hawaii. Would you do a tight Economy experience to beautiful Oahu for the right price? 


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