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Air Asia Set to Introduce Africa Route

Air Asia X is reported to be introducing flights to the African continent from November.

The first A330neo for Air Asia X (Photo: Airbus)

Low-cost Asian carrier Air Asia X is slated to introduce scheduled services to its first destination in Africa in the next few months. Though there has not been an official announcement from Air Asia as of yet, a representative from the airline attended the AviaDev conference – an event focusing on route development in Africa, held in Windhoek last week. Furthermore, Air Asia’s flights to Nairobi are already showing in airline analytics platforms including Cirium and OAG.

This will be Air Asia’s first foray into Africa, with scheduled services scheduled to be introduced between Malaysia and the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The airline previously operated flights to the Indian Ocean region but dropped these some years back. Air Asia X offered long-haul services to the island of Mauritius in 2016 and 2017.

Launching Nairobi Services

According to data from airline analytics platform Cirium, AirAsia X will offer services between Kuala Lumpur and Nairobi from November 15. The long-haul route will be operated four times a week, using an Airbus A330-300 which seats up to 377 passengers.

Kuala Lumpur is ideally located to become a hub for Air Asia’s Nairobi service. The low-cost Asian carrier has an extensive route network throughout Asia and beyond, which passengers can use to travel to other destinations served from its Kuala Lumpur hub. Furthermore, Air Asia will offer an alternative to Kenya Airways, which offers flights from Nairobi to Bangkok.

The 3 900 nautical mile (7 223 km) route heralds AirAsia X’s first route to mainland Africa. Air Asia’s Nairobi services will become the carrier’s longest route. Currently, Air Asia’s longest route is its scheduled service to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Challenges in Establishing the Nairobi Route

While it would be great for Air Asia to offer African connectivity in its route network, it is not going to be all smooth sailing for the Asian low-cost carrier as it launches services into Kenya.

Air Asia is expected to face some challenges in making the route economically sustainable. Lack of brand awareness in Kenya – and Africa, as well as its traditional distribution methods are likely to be initial obstacles for Air Asia as it gets the route off the ground.

As reported by Simple Flying, African Aviation consultant Sean Mendis, said that Air Asia might experience some obstacles when establishing itself in the Kenya market.

“They will have challenges with the distribution on the African side of the route given AirAsia’s traditional dependence on direct sales and its relative lack of brand recognition in Africa. They will need to leverage the Kuala Lumpur hub to feed the flights from all over Southeast Asia to make this work,” he noted. 

That said, other major low-cost carriers have managed to make inroads in Kenya. This includes India’s Indigo and Dubai’s FlyDubai, which currently offer long-haul scheduled services into Nairobi.

Lorne Philipot

Author

  • Lorne Philipot

    Lorne is a South Africa-based aviation journalist. He was captivated and fascinated by flying from the day he took his first airline flight. With a passion for aviation in his blood, he has flown to destinations in all corners of the globe. Lorne has traveled extensively and lived in various countries. Drawing on his travels and passion for aviation, Lorne enjoys writing about airlines, routes, networks, and new developments.

    View all posts

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