Budget airline Air Asia X launches in NZ
01 Dec 2010
Cut-price airline Air Asia X has launched in Christchurch today (1.12.10) promising a major boost to the South Island tourism gateway, and the cheapest international airfares New Zealand has ever seen.
The Malaysia-based carrier is due to begin long haul flights direct from Kuala Lumpur to Christchurch early next year with tickets going on sale this week.
At the launch in Christchurch the airline was offering one way flights to Kuala Lumpur for NZ$99 or $200 return. It is predicted that fares between Christchurch and London could be as little as NZ$1000.
The deal between New Zealand and Air Asia X - the fastest growing low-cost carrier in the world - could bring 70,000 more visitors a year and add NZ$70 - $80 million to the region's economy, as well as creating hundreds of new jobs.
Free Christchurch - KL flights
About 1000 people attended the launch in Cathedral Square in Christchurch including tourism and airline leaders. Ten return flights to Kuala Lumpur were given away to members of the public.
Asia X has been named the world’s best long-haul, low-cost carrier and with parent company Air Asia, flies to 139 destinations throughout Asia, India, the Middle East and Europe.
The airline’s chief executive, Azran Osman-Rani, said the choice of Christchurch as its first New Zealand port reflected its great destinational appeal.
"Christchurch Airport put up a great business case for why we should come south," Osman-Rani said. "We were impressed with the potential and the quality of tourism experiences available in the South Island."
Tourism New Zealand chief executive Kevin Bowler, who was involved in securing the deal, said it was fantastic news for New Zealand and particularly the South Island.
"We are seeing fantastic demand from all parts of Asia and this decision from Air Asia X couldn’t come at a better time."
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said the deal could mean up to 70,000 more visitors a year and with the extra jobs and revenue generated, was extremely important for travel and tourism in the region.
"Having this new airline truly positions Christchurch as New Zealand’s tourism hub," Parker said.
Earlier this year three Air Asia X executives visited New Zealand to investigate the market and were taken on a "whirlwind tour" of the South Island that included classic experiences like white-water rafting, bungy jumping, climbing glaciers at Mt Cook, and riding on the Shotover Jet.
South Island tourism
David Mackenzie, board chairman of Christchurch International Airport (CIAL), also says the arrival of Air Asia X will be another leap forward for South Island tourism.
"There is no doubt in my mind that the South Island of New Zealand is becoming a special destination in its own right. I think we will see more airlines such as Air Asia X bringing people in direct through the Christchurch International Airport gateway."
CIAL chief executive Jim Boult said the additional Air Asia X flights would also give Christchurch and South Island residents more travel opportunities to different parts of the world.
"We can expect many people to travel down from Auckland and Wellington to take advantage of these flights. It’s a win-win scenario," Boult said.
Air Asia X was launched in 2007 and has undergone rapid expansion, adding new routes each year. It operates some of the latest Airbus models including the A330-300 and A340-300.
The airline would start four return services to Christchurch from about March 2011, and hoped to later introduce daily flights.
Christchurch - Canterbury region
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