Flying High: AirAsia’s Bali Gateway Brings a Boom

PERTH ~ Bali’s runaway success as one of AirAsia Group’s new hubs is set to build the airline’s presence here into a much bigger player, bringing extra Bali-based jobs and a steadily increasing network of services that the airline hopes will encourage further growth in tourism.

That was the cheering news AirAsia Group’s regional head of commerce, Kathleen Tan, gave The Bali Times in Perth after the inaugural AirAsia Indonesia flight to Perth on July 17. Seat demand on the sector had already grown so much for services began that the airline announced a second daily service would start on August 19.

July 17’s inaugural flight by the low-fare airline left slightly behind schedule, like most other flights, due to Ngurah Rai’s peak tourist season difficulty in coping with multiple international departures.

Tan said operating at Ngurah Rai was a challenge and governments at all levels needed to overcome this. “You need heavy political connections to run an airline, especially in Asia,” she said.

Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika this year ordered the airport to complete its terminal expansion plans quickly to try to cope with demand.

Western Australia is traditionally Bali’s prime Australian market. Perth is little more than three hours away by air. More than 70,000 seats – 35,000 return bookings – had been taken for the new AirAsia service between May when online bookings opened and July 17, prompting the pre-inaugural flight announcement of the second daily service.

Planned new services to Bali from Penang in Malaysia – another new AirAsia hub – and from Darwin are expected to build Ngurah Rai’s hub potential even further. AirAsia is taking over the Darwin route that the national airline Garuda dropped in April after 28 years of continuous services.

Tan told The Bali Times that through the innovative hub system the airline was using, AirAsia passengers would soon be able to fly from Hong Kong to Bali via Penang.

The airline made news earlier this year when it dropped the controversial fuel surcharge – used by airlines worldwide to offset high oil prices – and announced its major expansion and fleet upgrade.

It claims to have the youngest fleet of aircraft in the region and is replacing its Boeing 737-300s with new generation Airbus 320s.

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