Air Asia X is offering introductory NZ$99 (US$73.70) one-way direct flights from Christchurch to Malaysia. When combined with its regular fares on its flights...

Malaysia-based low-cost airline Air Asia X will begin serving Christchurch in New Zealand from Kuala Lumpur on April 1, 2011, with four non-stop flights a week.

Air Asia X is offering introductory NZ$99 (US$73.70) one-way direct flights from Christchurch to Malaysia. When combined with its regular fares on its flights linking Kuala Lumpur with London and Paris, this means Kiwis will be able to fly to Europe for around NZ$1,000 (US$744.50) round-trip, according to the airline. Promotional fares can be even lower, Air Asia X says.

“Long haul air travel is now accessible to the average New Zealander,” says Azran Osman-Rani, CEO of Air Asia X. “Our average fares are always the lowest in the market.”

Adds Osman-Rani: “AirAsia X’s direct connection will be able to stimulate new travel demands, particularly from young working adults and families, to travel to Malaysia and thereafter use Kuala Lumpur as a gateway to over 139 routes in South East Asia that includes regional ASEAN cities or long-haul sectors serviced by AirAsia X. We anticipate that this new route will be able to tap first time travellers to and from Christchurch, which will significantly contribute to tourism growth in both New Zealand and Malaysia.”

Tickets for Air Asia X’s new Christchurch-Kuala Lumpur service go on sale at from midday New Zealand time December 3 to December 5 or until fares are sold out, for flights from April 1 to November 2011.

Long-haul, low-cost carrier AirAsia X has signed a firm contract for 10 A350 XWB aircraft and has optioned five more, to be used on a network linking its Asian hub in Kuala Lumpur with destinations worldwide. The airline also operates and has on order a total of 25 A330-300s, as well as operating two A340-300s

The low-cost, long-haul carrier flies to 13 other destinations in Australia, the UK, Europe, China, Korea, India, Iran, Japan and Taiwan, and is launching twice-weekly service from Kuala Lumpur to Paris on February 14. Its shorter-haul affiliate – AirAsia – flies to all the ASEAN cities and destinations in Southeast Asia.

Air Asia X currently operates a fleet of nine Airbus A330-300s and two A340-300s. The carrier has an additional 16 A330-300s and 10 A350 XWBs on order and has optioned five more A350 XWBs.

According to Wellington-based aviation consultant Gordon Bevan, Air Asia’s new service should allow New Zealanders to reach many destinations with fewer stops, and at prices typically 20 per cent to 40 per cent cheaper than those offered by other airlines.

“AirAsia offers a much wider, much broader network from Asia than our existing carriers. People will be able to ‘try things out’ because it’s so much cheaper – you can go lots of places from KL for NZ$50,” says Bevan.

For travellers wanting extra services, AirAsia X is also offering promotional premium fares – Christchurch to Malaysia – of NZ$890 one-way for flat-bed seats.

Part-owned by Richard Branson, AirAsia X is one of the fastest growing long-haul carriers in the world. According to Air Asia X, its philosophy of ‘Now Everyone Can Fly’ is dedicated to making travel more affordable and accessible to all. Tourism New Zealand says AirAsia X will bring many new travellers to New Zealand, boosting inbound traveller numbers by more than 30,000 visitors per year.

The airline launched services to Australia’s Gold Coast in 2007 and within the first 12 months demand grew by 46 per cent – 23 times faster than overall Queensland international market growth, according to Air Asia X. From an initial four flights a week in the Kuala Lumpur-Gold Coast market, AirAsia X has increased its capacity to daily flights.

Analysis of AirAsia X’s impact since it launched in Australia three years ago indicates there will likely be a 35 per cent to 53 per cent increase in New Zealanders travelling from Christchurch to Malaysia, according to the airline, which expcets its flights will be popular with New Zealanders travelling to destinations such as Bali, and to Phuket and Krabi in Thailand.

“There is plenty of room in the market for AirAsia X to operate alongside the established providers such as Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Air New Zealand,” says Jim Boult, chief executive of Christchurch International Airport. “The AirAsia network is so extensive it’s going to introduce New Zealand to passengers that the existing airlines don’t tap into. AirAsia targets mostly high-growth markets whose populations are rapidly developing an appetite for travel.”

To search for low fares, click here.