Best Low Cost Airline in Asia for 2020: AirAsia and AirAsia X

by Christine Forbes Smith
November 25, 2019
(Third from Left) AirAsia Group President (Airline) Bo Lingam, AirAsia X Group CEO Nadda Buranasiri, AirAsia X Berhad Chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer and Avolon CEO Domhnal Slattery flanked by AirAsia Cabin Crew.

AirAsia and its partner airline AirAsia X are once again winners of Airline Excellence Awards Best Low Cost Airline Award for the Asia/Pacific region.

Launched in 2002 by Tony Fernandes with just two planes, Air Asia has had a spectacular growth over the past 16 years to become one of the best Asian airlines.

READ: AirAsia Supersizes Its Fleet to Lower Fares

The rise and rise of the two KL-based airlines is without doubt one of the airline industry’s great success stories for it has had to combat one external crisis after another, plus manoeuvre around a host of roadblocks put up by governments wanting to protect their national (and often government-owned) airlines.

And there were plenty of knockers, including former Assn. of Asia Pacific Airlines DG Richard Stirland, who told a low-cost airline conference in 2003 that LCCs “will be something we read about rather than worry about.”

He went on to target Fernandes personally: “I regret to say that many of those who, in the fashion of Saint John the Baptist, announces the imminent arrival of a saviour in the form of Richard Branson or even Tony Fernandes appears not to have considered the facts.”

The facts are that AirAsia has re-written the rule book for airlines in Asia and beyond to become a dominant low cost airline. Today, AirAsia has 255 aircraft flying to 165 destinations (these numbers include the JV partners).

READ: AirAsia Unveils New Dimension to Long-Haul Low-Cost Flying

low cost airline Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas said that the Best Low Cost Airline win was “richly deserved.”

“Mr Fernandes and AirAsia X Malaysia chief executive Benyamin Ismail have done an outstanding job guiding the airlines to their dominant market position.”

“These airlines have made travel affordable for tens of millions throughout Asia, and they offer outstanding value and a great experience.”

AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes said, “We are proud to be recognised as champions for the second year running in these coveted awards which recognise airline excellence, as judged by our highly esteemed industry colleagues.”

READ: The Rise and Rise of AirAsia

“We continue to focus on always putting safety first and delivering the very best value airfares for short, medium and long haul travel throughout Asia Pacific.

“Our transformation strategy to become a leading digital travel technology company is well underway and we have many exciting initiatives in the pipeline to make air travel more affordable, seamless and convenient than ever. Last year alone we flew over 90 million passengers and that number is set to grow with our future fleet development plans.

“Recently we announced that AirAsia is now flying the latest new generation A321neo aircraft and with 353 of this aircraft type on order, the A321neo will be the backbone of our short haul operations across our network.

AirAsia X CEO Ben Ismail

AirAsia X Malaysia CEO Benyamin Ismail said, “We thank AirlineRatings for this prestigious award as we continue to evolve in order to be Asia Pacific’s airline of choice for medium to longer haul air travel with 78 A330neo widebody aircraft, complemented by 30 A321XLR narrowbody aircraft on order, which we believe will be a game changer in the industry.

“This powerful combination will provide AirAsia X with the lowest possible operating costs to expand its network and enable even more people to fly further for less, allowing AirAisa X to further build on our existing strong market position and expand into existing markets like Australia and explore new longer haul markets including Europe, which are currently under review.”

And this low cost airline is not resting on its laurels, either.

In fact, both airlines have large fleets with the latest Airbus models entering service.

KL-based AirAsia added the A321neo this year while AirAsia X the A330-900neo. Both designs slash fuel burn helping the airlines keep fares low. AirAsia was one of the first airlines to take delivery of the A320neo in 2016.

READ: AirAsia Takes the A330neo Downunder

And partner low cost airilne AirAsia X is looking to boost its premium product in a move designed to differentiate it from its low-cost competition and reposition its brand.

The Kuala Lumpur-based airline, which celebrated its 12th anniversary in November, was the world’s first low-cost carrier to introduce Flatbed seats and flies a product that is 20-inches wide with a generous 60-inch seat pitch.