The Australian state of Victoria is getting a second international airport after AirAsia X Malaysia announced it would move its services from Melbourne Airport to a regional facility at Avalon later this year.
The deal will see AirAsia X Malaysia fly more than 500,000 seats to and from Avalon, about 50kms from Melbourne, and its home base in Kuala Lumpur.
It will operate twice daily flights from the airport, which currently hosts a handful of domestic services by Qantas low-cost offshoot Jetstar and is near the regional city of Geelong. Avalon is also the site of the Australian International Airshow every two years.
The deal is the realization of a long-held international ambition at Avalon, which was bought by the Linfox Group in 1997. It comes after previously flagged agreements with HNA Group and the Philippines government failed to produce results
The AirAsia service is the subject of a 10-year agreement that Avalon Airport chief executive Justin Giddings said was structured to accommodate the carrier’s growth.
“It is the first such deal in Australia,and provides a unique low-cost opportunity for people and businesses to access over 130 destinations throughout Asia,’’ he said.
“Avalon Airport is easily accessible from Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat and surrounds. Low-cost flights combined with an easy airport experience makes for the perfect partnership.”
Those attending the announcement on Sunday included Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, AirAsia Group chief executive Tony Fernandes, Linfox founder Lindsay Fox, AirAsia X Malaysia chief executive Benyamin Ismail as well as Victorian government and airport officials.
“This is an exciting milestone for AirAsia X,’’ Fernandes said in a statement.
“Since our inaugural flight in 2007, AirAsia X has flown over 30 million guests, including 6.1 million Australians – tourists wanting to experience amazing Australia, students from across the globe and Australians who wish to see the world.”
Victorian Employment Minister Ben Carroll said terminal construction would create an additional 33 jobs and new facilities would be capable of exporting 14 tonnes of Victorian fresh produce daily.
The freight aspect was a particularly exciting development, according to Linfox Airports executive chairman David Fox.
“We have received great interest from exporters in the region and this now provides the perfect platform for fresh food access to Asia,” he said.
In recent years, the AirAsia Group has attracted significant Australian media attention after a number of incidents involving its aircraft.