Chinese travelers looking to fly around the country for cheap will soon have another economical option available with AirAsia embarking on a joint venture to create a new lost-cost carrier in the center of China.
Currently, air travel in China is dominated by the big three state-owned carriers (Air China, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines) with budget airlines making up just 10% of traffic. However, Malaysia’s AirAsia has slowly been expanding its business in the country, which will soon boast the world’s biggest aviation market, with flights to 15 destinations in China, making it the country’s largest foreign budget carrier.
But AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes has always had grander plans. For the last decade he has been working on setting up a low-cost airline in China and his efforts finally paid off this week, inking a deal with the China Everbright Group to establish a new budget airline in the Henan capital of Zhengzhou. In addition, the airline’s base in Zhengzhou will include facilities for aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul, along with an academy to train pilots, crew and engineers.
For Fernandes it’s all a dream come true. “This Chinese venture represents the final piece of the AirAsia puzzle,” he said, noting that AirAsia has already set up operations in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, Philippines and India.
Of course, it will still take a while before this scheme gets off the ground. In the meantime, it has been reported that AirAsia is considering stocking its Zhengzhou fleet with China’s new homegrown C919 airliners.
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