Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia X said it can weather the storm of a sharply deteriorating global economy and is hiring pilots to expand its routes to China, India, South Korea and Japan.
Chief executive Azran Osman Rani said that while it was a challenging period for the aviation industry as many countries slip into a recession and carriers go bust, there were “a lot of business opportunities for us.”
Bookings for its direct London flight on its leased Airbus 340-300, due to begin March 11, were overwhelming, he said, with 30,000 seats sold.
Demand was great as ticket prices cost about 2,000 ringgit (US$580), less than half the price of a regular non-budget flight.
AirAsia X will fly five times a week between the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and Stansted Airport on the outskirts of London.
Azran said AirAsia X was looking to expand its routes next year into northern India including New Delhi, Amritsar and Mumbai, and to Beijing. In 2010 it aims to target South Korea and to Tokyo, Hokkaido in northern Japan and Kyushu in the south.
Azran said it was taking on new staff for its expansion.
“We are still hiring pilots and cabin crew despite the tough economic outlook next year,” he said.
AirAsia X, which currently flies to Australia’s Gold Coast, Perth and Melbourne, and Hangzhou in China, will end the year with about 362 million ringgit in sales.
It aims to expand sales tenfold to one billion dollars by the end of 2010, despite the global slowdown.
Azran said the main challenge amid the uncertain global outlook was “to effectively scale up the scope of our business while keeping the lid on costs.”
He said that oil prices were not expected to surge in the short and medium term.