AirAsia returns 'stronger'

Aviation Updates Philippines – AirAsia Malaysia, last week, resumed partial operations on its domestic flights while adhering to stringent health measures as mandated by authorities. It will be followed by Thailand (May 1), Indonesia (May 7), and the Philippines (May 16), subject to approval from the authorities.

STRONGER. AirAsia Allstars posing in-front of a camera as they prepare an Airbus A321neo aircraft for its first flight after the COVID-19 suspensions. Photo from AirAsia, handout

From Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia now flies to Kota Kinabalu, Tawau, Kuching, Miri, Sandakan, Kota Bharu, and Penang. On the other hand, the low-cost airline also resumed flights on the following routes: Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu-Tawau, Kuching-Miri, and Bintulu-Kuching. Flights between Kuala Lumpur and Sibu will resume on May 17, 2020.

The resumption of operations for the Malaysian unit is a welcome development for the aviation industry as airlines continue to adapt to the changes brought by the pandemic. Gradually, AirAsia Malaysia plans to resume flights to select international destinations as well in the next few weeks.

"Flexibility remains the key to our business model. Our strong foundation coupled with robust relationships with suppliers and partners [has] enabled us to return to service stronger amid these unprecedented challenging times," AirAsia Group Executive Chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun said.

On the airline's fleet network, Kamarudin remarked: "We do not intend to take any new aircraft deliveries this year with the target to end 2020 with 242 aircraft, a net reduction of 1 aircraft from last year. We are relooking at our [order book] with Airbus." Airbus recently planned to sell six supposedly AirAsia-bound Airbus A320neo family aircraft not taken up.

"We have also restructured a major portion of the fuel hedges with our supportive counterparties and are still in [the] process of restructuring the remaining exposure. This will help deal with the excess of hedged volume against expected fuel consumption post-COVID-19 and reduce the hedging losses if fuel price remains at today’s prices. Further measures in managing and containing cost include both the management and senior employees of AirAsia Group volunteering a salary sacrifice, [renegotiating] contracts, and deferring all non-essential expenditures," he added.

A week ago, AirAsia released guidelines for its flights while the COVID-19 pandemic persists. According to the budget carrier, it will now require all passengers to wear face masks on all flights, at the same time, practice physical distancing at all times. These are only some of the measures AirAsia undertook to ensure the safety of passengers.

“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. We will require guests to wear a mask and practice universally recommended protective precautionary measures including social distancing and observing high personal hygiene. All our aircraft, which are fitted with hospital-standard High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, will also be sent for a thorough disinfection every night stop," Kamarudin said.

“Despite the unprecedented environment we are currently in, we are continuing to build on our strengths and especially our brand so as to emerge stronger when normalcy returns. We hope to continue to sustain the 1.3 million jobs and counting in the sector in the region, directly and indirectly, and double our economic contribution to ASEAN’s GDP from US$15.3 billion in 2018 to US$35 billion in 2030.”