BUSAN, South Korea (Feb 5): Kuching and Kota Kinabalu are poised to become the next AirAsia hubs to attract international visitors from Busan, South Korea, said AirAsia X chief executive officer Benyamin Ismail.
Acknowledging that there are the two South Korean airlines offering Kota Kinabalu-Busan routes, Benyamin said AirAsia X is open for expansion opportunities in the two Bornean state cities in the near future as it would inevitably help in terms of economic spillover.
He said travel demand is going strong despite headwinds from the economy.
“There is … there is (plan). I mean Sabah has always been a big market and as you know now in Sabah, the Korea Airline and Jin Air started coming in.
“So, it is one of the focuses for us because both cities are nature hubs,” he told The Borneo Post when met at the AirAsia X inaugural flight celebration press conference from Kuala Lumpur to Busan at Gimhae International Airport in Busan recently.
Benyamin was asked whether AirAsia X is looking into the prospect of opening new routes to Busan from Sabah and Sarawak.
While he welcomed the plan, Benyamin said AirAsia X wants to strengthen its foothold in South Korea and boost its capacity.
“We are now looking for expansion opportunities with seven aircraft and are set to receive more aircraft in the upcoming months and we will continue to expand our flight network and frequencies to exciting destinations such as Busan.
“But like I said just now, the most important now is to get the main routes first, which is Kuala Lumpur first, then once we get all the aircraft, maybe if there is spare capacity we will use it for Kota Kinabalu or Kuching,” he said.
He also said that AirAsia X is also looking into opportunities of opening new international routes in Johor.
“We also look at it because it seems that the Johor-Incheon route has a very good market because it is a very interesting market where those from Incheon come to Johor, stay in Johor, and also go to Singapore.
“So that will be something that we want to explore,” he added.