Saturday, 14 January 2012

Sad News From AirAsia (AA) - repost

Lines (Right to Left)
New Delhi - X
Mumbai - X
London - X
Paris - X

I am a budget traveller, who always be, feeling so devastated and couldn't be more sad about the recent announcement by Airasia (AA) on its affiliate Airasia X withdrawing services to India (Mumbai and New Delhi) and Europe (London and Paris).

I think most of my friends would feel the same as I am feeling now. Withdrawing the services leave travelers have no choice but to spend more on commercial airlines to fly to the destinations. Axing the route to India (New Delhi and Mumbai) is still fine as travelers could use the alternative route to enter India through Kolkata or Chennai by AA. However, we would think it much more advisable to substitute Kolkata by Dhaka in neighbouring Bangladesh – if AA really want to pursue the policy of just retaining minimal access to India: Chennai is the most used route for Malaysian Indians, and Dhaka in the northern Sub-Continent is the most major source and most convenient point of  departure for vast numbers of labourers and workers (as well as professionals) from northern part of the Sub-continent (Bangladesh, Nepal). Kolkata has no justification as a destination: there are no Kolkatite community (unlike South Indian/ Tamils big community) in Malaysia, nor is Kolkata a source of expatriate labour or professionals, nor even is Kolkata a pleasant and cheap destination for AA kind of tourists and passengers. On the other hand, there is an only RM 20 train/ bus journey on daily basis available between Dhaka and Kolkata, as well as between Dhaka and Agartala – the doorway to India’s Northeast, which is almost inaccessible from anywhere in the world, even the rest of India – and Dhaka is the closest international airport. AA had a very busy route to Dhaka, why was it chopped off only recently, is not understood. There are very cheap, fast and easy onward flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Hyderabad in India, and London and the Middle East also. One can travel by train from Dhaka to Delhi (and Kolkata, if desired) also very cheap and fast now (unlike 2 years ago). Dhaka being the terminal point for Air Arabia – another low budget airline serving mainly the Middle East, but also taking passengers to Europe fast and cheap – would be a very good, cheap, convenient connecting point for Malaysians and others in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia) to fly both to the Middle East, on Hajj and Umrah and otherwise on Air Arabia, as well as to quite a number of European destinations including London. If AA would re-open its Dhaka route, that might compensate for its closing of London and Delhi routes to a great extent: people could fly from LCCT KLIA to Hazrat Shah Jalal in Dhaka by AA, and from there to London or Madinah, or Cairo – or even Tehran and Kazakhstan, as well as Nepal,  by Air Arabia (or cheap local airlines in case of Nepal, Bhutan and India).

The most heart breaking is the news of axing London and Paris routes. London and Paris are the hot spots in Europe. Since AA launched the routes, many are happy including free-and-easy travelers, students and corporate companies who are seeking for cheaper option flying to Europe. Nevertheless, one of the local newspaper suggested that travelers who want to fly to London or Paris from Malaysia could opt for travelling down to Singapore to take the flights because Singapore has more choices on budget airlines. Singapore is NOT a suitable exit point from this region for low cost budget travellers (students, labourers, budget holiday makers, frequent flyer businessmen)  to  London – because of Singapore’s very expensive hotel rates and very difficult visa regulations whereby most low cost travelers noted above can not easily enter Singapore. Instead, Dhaka, a very cheap and friendly place to enter, stay and reconnect for Europe and the Middle East, is.

Chopping the flights to Darwin in Australia also is not good news. If KL-Darwin was not profitable, AA could – and I think would be better off to – start a Surabaya-Darwin, or at least Bali-Darwin flight – as there is a large Indonesian community, mostly from East Java and neighbouring islands, served by Surabaya as their only international airport. Losing already established client groups is not good business. We love AA from its first day of inception, and like to remind this – and point out the above facts also – to our Dato Fernandez, in whose meteoric rise in business entrepreneurship was our pride. Has he relaxed on this by complacency, or perhaps by some bad advice from some quarters? We hope he can be alert again!

On AA recent official press release, it mentioned the act of axing the routes is due to increasing fuel prices and airport tax in the affected destinations. What other sort of lame reasons the AA official can provide? As a profit-oriented corporate company, the easiest way to tackle increased of fuel prices and airport taxes are transferring the cost to consumers, and not terminate the service totally. The suspension of services has led to the speculation on the so-called "swapped deals" between AA and MAS.

The "swapped deal" is more on the survival of MAS as the government-linked company. The persistence bailed out by the government would rather a "saving face" issue instead of solely business consideration. Tax payers' money continues to be splashed out to save the mismanagement airlines and consumers are the ultimate loser in this matter after all.

As a consumer, I don't understand the move of government in implementing the Competition Law since 1 January this year. It's a big slap on the Competition Commission and makes people doubtful the functions of the Commission.

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