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Cheaper international flights coming for Kiwis as Air Asia returns to New Zealand

One of the world’s cheapest airlines is promising to cut fares for Kiwis as it announces a return to New Zealand.

Air Asia has confirmed Stuff trip that he has ambitious expansion plans, including a return to Auckland via Australia.

The flights would depart from Auckland, then travel through Tasmania to an airport in Australia, before heading to Kuala Lumpur. Passengers could then connect to dozens of destinations across Asia or places like Istanbul and London.

The flights will be operated by AirAsia X, the airline’s long-haul subsidiary, which uses 377-seat A330 aircraft.

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The airline last launched a route to Auckland in 2016 with fares of $99 to the Gold Coast and $249 to Kuala Lumpur.

As travel demand surged after the Covid-19 border closures, airfares soared, resulting in flights booked across the Tasman and one-way fares of up to $1,000 for Sydney.

Air Asia flew to Christchurch in 2011.

WAYNNE WILLIAMS / Stuff

Air Asia flew to Christchurch in 2011.

Air New Zealand, Qantas and Jetstar are the main airlines currently flying through Tasmania – with some services also run by Qatar and Latam Airlines.

But the operators could be set to face more competition, with Air Asia promising to offer “industry-leading” fares – in other words – the cheapest.

“AirAsia X has one of the lowest cost bases for medium to long-haul travel, so Kiwis can expect great value fares from AirAsia X when we launch. services soon,” said Benyamin Ismail, the airline’s general manager.

AirAsia X remains silent on which airport its Auckland-Australia flights will be heading to until the official announcement. Its Auckland-Gold Coast leg lasted less than three years, with Benyamin at the time citing fierce trans-Tasman competition as one of the reasons the route was closed in 2019.

However, times have changed and there is currently less competition on the Tasman following major border closures over the past two years due to Covid-19.

Air Asia X recently announced a significant expansion following its Covid-19 grounding, resuming flights to South Korea and New Delhi. It also announced routes to Japan, Hawaii, London, Dubai, Istanbul, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth.

Air Asia will also offer discounted fares for Kiwis to other popular Asian destinations such as Thailand, India, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Japan and South Korea via its Kuala Lumpur hub.

“Kiwis love Asia and now that international borders are reopening in our key markets with fewer travel restrictions, we are confident our services will be popular,” Benyamin said.

The airline promises to release the start date and prices for its new route “in the near future”.

The airline will use A330 aircraft.

Dean Kozanic / Stuff

The airline will use A330 aircraft.

Long-haul airlines landing in Australia sometimes add a Trans-Tasman leg to their trip. That’s because they don’t all return immediately – and it’s expensive to park a plane at an airport for the day. So instead, it makes more sense to fly the plane on a quick return to New Zealand and earn some money (or at least try).

AirAsia X has 11 A330-300 aircraft, which it hopes will all be back in the air by October 2022. It also plans to lease four additional aircraft, bringing the fleet to 15 by the end of the year.

The airline still has 15 A330-900s on order.

AirAsia X first flew to New Zealand in April 2011, just months after its devastating earthquake. Just over a year later, the airline withdrew from the route, citing the rising cost of jet fuel.

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