An increasing number of travellers in the Asia Pacific region are hopping aboard cheap flights now that a number of budget airlines have begun to expand their fleets and route paths. Air Asia, Lion Air, Tiger Airways and Scoot are among the budget airlines vying for dominance in the region and this airline war is good news for regional travellers and expats in Southeast Asia, who can now take advantage of cheaper flights to travel within the region.
Today’s market in Asia is dominated by Tony Fernandes’ budget carrier, AirAsia. The Thai branch of AirAsia anticipates cumulative passenger numbers will hit the five million mark by 2018, largely as a result of the influx of Chinese visitors to Thailand. Thai AirAsia (TAA) carried 1.1 million Chinese visitors to and from Thailand last year, while the number of passengers in 1Q13 increased by 140 percent year-on-year due to the airline’s focus on Chinese opportunities. TAA have also revealed plans to increase their flight paths to include two more destinations in southern China as well as increasing the number of flights to existing destinations.
Tassapon Bijleveld, TAA’s chief executive, called upon Thailand’s tourism industry to make adjustments to accommodate the increased level of Chinese visitors.
"They need to change their mindset about the Chinese, who dare to spend a lot on sightseeing, shopping and eating, all adding up to good business for them," he said.
Meanwhile, Scoot, a budget subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, has flown an average of 85,000 passengers a month since its launch last year, and is another airline that has unveiled plans for expansion. Scoot’s inflight entertainment system is already streaming ahead, as the airline was the first to introduce iPads for passengers to rent. "We’re taking on a fifth aircraft this year and we’ll use that to add two or three more routes to the network," said Campbell Wilson, CEO of Scoot Airlines. "Currently we work most closely with Tiger Airways, they have affiliates in other countries that we would look to expand our routes to. Furthermore, there are airlines outside of Singapore and indeed Southeast Asia that are quite interested to work with us," he added.
Indonesia’s Lion Air is also aggressively pursuing expansion, and recently placed the largest-ever order for Boeing Airbuses when it finalised an order for 234 Airbuses. The company is reportedly considering partnerships in Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam and hopes to expand its fleet to 1,000 planes within the next 10 years. Tiger Airways also has its sights set on capturing more passengers in the budget flight market. Rob Sharp, the new CEO of Tiger Airways Australia, is optimistic about expanding the airline’s fleet of 11 aircraft, and believes that the carrier’s base of 16 flights provides a healthy platform for future expansion. Singapore-based Tiger Airways Holdings recently entered into a joint-venture with Virgin, with plans to expand the Australian arm of the airline to 23 aircraft by 2018.