AirAsia X will switch to Gatwick from October after seeing a 10% decline in passengers connecting from low-cost carriers at Stansted, its current UK base.
The Malaysia-based carrier blamed a combination of air passenger duty (APD), the high oil price and falling UK consumer spending for the decline in traffic.
AirAsia X confirmed the move across London yesterday. It will close its Stansted operation and launch from Gatwick on October 24, flying five times a week to Kuala Lumpur – moving to six flights a week from mid-December.
Airline chief executive Azran Osman-Rani told Travel Weekly: “The high air tax negated the strategic advantage of Stansted. We can’t offer a £99 fare any more. We have seen an impact on passengers since late last year.”
He said: “We have seen the number of connecting passengers drop. We have probably lost 10% of our traffic.”
Osman-Rani added: “Gatwick has a bigger catchment area and it’s a better market for higher-fare flights. In a period of high costs you have to get higher yield [passengers]. You are seeing some of the low-cost carriers shifting aircraft to Gatwick [for the same reason].”
He said the decision to move was not easy, adding: “Stansted has been a fantastic partner.” But he insisted there was nothing Stansted could have done to change his mind. “It would not change the economics if the airport was free,” he said.
Osman-Rani also said Gatwick appeared a more popular choice among passengers. “We had a lot of feedback from passengers that they preferred Gatwick because of the access to central London,” he said.
AirAsia X operates to Australia, New Zealand, China and India as well as the UK and France. Its UK flights feed into the low-cost network of sister carrier Air Asia at Kuala Lumpur.
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