KOTA KINABALU: AirAsia will introduce a new flight service from Kota Kinabalu to Cebu, Philippines at the end of this year through its international operation brand, AirAsia X.
Chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes in announcing this here yesterday, said the airline was also planning to start connecting Kota Kinabalu to several other destinations in Australia, Korea and Japan.
“We have seen tremendous growth of 20 per cent in Sabah, which is actually the highest anywhere. Our next stage is to put AirAsia X into Sabah and start operating flights to Sydney and Perth as well as Korea and Japan,” he said, adding the Cebu flight would commence in December.
Fernandes, who said this when delivering a talk in conjunction with Sabah International Expo 2012, however did not disclose the frequency of the new flights.
“This shows you that we put our money where our mouth is. We brought Queens Park Rangers to Sabah, even though we have offers from all kinds of places, but me and (Datuk) Kamarudin (Meranun) said we don’t care how much money they offered. They offered us in Korea, Japan.
“We wanted to say ‘Thank you Sabah’ and promised we would bring the team to Sabah, and so we did,” he said, stressing AirAsia was committed in further enhancing its international flight services in Sabah.
On a related development, Fernandes said Tune Hotels was planning to improve its presence in Kota Kinabalu by opening two new outlets, in addition to the existing one located at 1Borneo.
He said Tune Hotels operation worldwide was showing positive signs with its chains doing really well, especially in Europe.
“Malaysia now too is beginning to pick up, and we are doing very well in Indonesia and Thailand.
“We had a poor start in Kota Kinabalu and we are looking to rectify this,” he said.
The chain hotel operating with a “limited service” concept currently has 35 hotels worldwide, providing a claimed “five-star sleeping experience at a one-star price” accommodation for those looking for a cheaper travelling alternative.
Tune Hotels is part of the Tune Group, the private investment group of Fernandes.
“I’m very optimistic of its future similar to AirAsia. The difference is it should be an easier business. You don’t have to apply for routes, you don’t have to deal with airports and there is no fuel price issue. So it should be better than it is, and I believe it will be.
“It fits the profile of AirAsia very well, so it should complement each other,” he said.
Meanwhile, answering a question from the floor, Fernandes said they were not concerned with the Indonesian low-cost carrier Lion Air starting Malindo Airways to service routes between Malaysia and Indonesia.
He said AirAsia was a tough competitor that had built its resilience and experience from scratch.
“It’s stupid to ignore it because everyone should be given serious consideration, but competition will make us better and I’m a big believer of the free market.
“We will compete with them in Indonesia like they never have seen. I’m living there now and there are 300 million people there that we want to get to fly with AirAsia,” he added.