AirAsia resumes limited flights, passengers must wear face masks

Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia returned to the skies Wednesday with domestic flights in Malaysia, and is set to resume flights to at least three regional destination’s in May.

Asia’s largest budget airline will resume flying to Thailand on May 1, Indonesia on May 7 and the Philippines on May 16 amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

AirAsia said it will gradually increase flights to other destinations around the region once governments lift borders and travel restrictions.

With the limited service resumption, passengers are required to follow strict safety measures.

Each passenger is required to bring their own mask and wear it properly before, during and after the flight, including during check-in and bag collection. Any guest without a mask will be denied boarding.

Other safety measures include a baggage allowance of only one piece (instead of the usual two), not exceeding 7kg, and earlier arrival at the airport – at least three hours – before departure.

“AirAsia works actively with all relevant regulators, local governments, civil aviation and health authorities, and adheres to guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to ensure the highest standards of compliance and conformance are in place for every single flight we operate in our network,” Executive Chairman of AirAsia Group Datuk Kamarudin Meranun was quoted in a statement, as saying.

AirAsia is also implementing a range of cost-cutting measures.

It said it had restructured most of its fuel hedges, struck when oil prices were higher, and that it was cutting employee costs, renegotiating contracts and cutting back on non-essential spending to lower costs by at least 30 per cent this year.

“Further measures in managing and containing cost include both the management and senior employees of AirAsia Group volunteering a salary sacrifice, re-negotiating contracts and deferring all non-essential expenditures,” Kamarudin said.

The company will not take in any new aircraft deliveries this year. After years of expansion, AirAsia expects to end 2020 with 242 aircraft in its fleet, down one from last year.

The carrier is one of Airbus’s largest customers, with orders for 349 A321neo jets and 13 A320neo planes yet to be delivered to the main airline. They would be worth about $46 billion at today’s list prices, though in practice airlines win discounts above 50 per cent for such large orders.

AirAsia has ordered a total of more than 660 Airbus jets since switching from a small Boeing fleet more than 15 years ago.

“The decision to sell and lease our aircraft in late 2018, has provided us greater flexibility to scale back growth than owning aircraft today. We were also able to lock in the best price for those aircraft at prime market conditions while eliminating the residual risk of owning aircraft,” Kamarudin said.

AirAsia is major airline connecting the Maldives with Southeast Asia, a fast growing source market for the island nation’s lucrative tourism industry.

Before the coronavirus pandemic hammered global travel, AirAsia was operating a daily service connecting Kuala Lumpur and Male, utilising its fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft with 180 and 186 seat capacity.

Separately, its long-haul affiliate AirAsia X also served the same route four days a week using Airbus A330-300 aircraft with 377-seat capacity, including 12 Premium Flatbed seats.

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