AirAsia X believes its gamble to switch to cheaper digs at Melbourne’s Avalon airport is paying off and says new destinations may be on the horizon.
The airline switched its service from Melbourne Airport to Avalon in early December and AirAsia X chief executive Benyamin Ismail said the airline was pleased with early demand over summer.
Ismail said more than 100,000 people had already flown on its two daily flights between Avalon and Kuala Lumpur with loads at a healthy 80 to 85 percent through December, January and February.
“Avalon Airport is now AirAsia’s largest destination in Australia by capacity with plans to potentially add new destinations from Avalon in the future – based on demand and overall commercial viability,’’ he said.
“Fly Through services via Kuala Lumpur onto India, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are proving popular also from Avalon for leisure and visiting friends and family.”
Ismail said the airline was also happy with its operations out of Avalon, near the regional city of Geelong and about 45 minutes from the center of Melbourne. A SkyBus service connects the airport to the city.
The airport signed a 10-year agreement with the Kuala Lumpur-based LCC after lengthy discussions as part of an ongoing campaign to attract international flights.
The agreement provides more than 500,000 seats annually on the twice-daily flights.
The Linfox Group-owned airport spent $50 million redeveloping its terminal and car parking facilities – more than double the original plan — and introduced separate international facilities.
This allowed the introduction of time-saving SmartGates for outbound border control with inbound gates due to be installed in the coming months.
Other facilities include duty-free, a travel agency and a bar as well as faster, more convenient Computed Tomography (CT) cabin baggage screening.
In February, Avalon introduced a new undercover mobile ramp for loading aircraft that increases the flow rate at disembarkation by 30 percent compared to stairs.
The Aviramp, the first of its kind in Australia, also creates easy access to the plane for all passengers.
“The purpose-built low-cost international terminal is very much in synch with our model, providing state of the art facilities without adding to the cost of travel,’’ Ismail said.
“(This means) AirAsia can continue to provide great value fares for our customers to and from Avalon Airport with a more streamlined and affordable experience for our guests, from door to door. “
AirAsia is targeting the nearby Geelong catchment, those in the fast-growing western suburbs of Melbourne and people in the central business district.
Ismail said it was also well placed for tourists wanting to visit Victoria’s internationally-renowned Great Ocean Road and more convenient and affordable for many central city residents when commute time, tolls, parking costs and congestion were factored in.
“We are aware there is always more education required to promote the many “Avalon Advantages” to continue to build appeal for Avalon Airport,’’ he said.
“While there have been some minor teething issues which are to be expected with any new terminal opening, we’ve found by far the majority of our customers flying from Avalon Airport — 99 percent — have been satisfied with the seamless experience and convenience of the new facilities.”
The AirAsia X boss said he was excited by new technology and innovations coming soon.
These included self-serve check-in kiosks and facial recognition technology which will continue to enhance the experience for travelers in and out of Avalon Airport.