AirAsia has inaugurated its newest hub on Indonesia’s Lombok ahead of starting four times weekly service to West Australian capital Perth from June 9.
The move comes as Australian and Indonesian officials are trying to rejuvenate tourism on the island after it was rocked by earthquakes in 2018.
AirAsia’s philanthropic arm, AirAsia Foundation, was also involved in relief efforts after the earthquakes.
The airline said the hub, its fifth in Indonesia, was part of efforts to support an Indonesian government initiative to develop the island as one of “10 new Balis”
It unveiled a new “I love Lombok” livery featuring Lombok tourist attractions such as Mount Rinjani the nearby Gili Islands on an Airbus A320 that will operate the flights to Perth.
AirAsia Indonesia will base two aircraft in Lombok with plans to connect domestic destinations such as Bali, Jakarta and Yogyakarta in the near future.
AirAsia has been flying to Lombok from Kuala Lumpur since 2012 and says it has carried more than 1 million visitors to the island during that time.
But it remains to be seen whether it can generate interest in Lombok among West Australians.
Jetstar pulled Perth-Lombok services in 2014 after failing to make the route work, saying it was not seeing enough demand to sustain services despite efforts to promote the island as a tourist destination.
The new Perth flights, operating as QZ470 outbound from Lombok and QZ471 outbound from Perth, will operate Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
AirAsia Indonesia chief executive Dendy Kurniawan said Lombok was a destination with rich tourism charms that held a special place in many people’s hearts.
“Today’s announcement will not only enhance international and domestic connectivity, but also create local job opportunities, stimulate tourism growth, and contribute to Lombok’s vitally important visitor economy,” he said.
AirAsia’s other Indonesian hubs are in Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan and Bali.
Kurniawan said data from Indonesia’s Ministry of Tourism showed AirAsia continued to be the biggest contributor to international visitors to the country.
He said it accounted for about 3.2 million arrivals or 25 percent of all international visitors to the country in 2018.