AirAsia to fly to five major Indian cities this year

Budget carrier AirAsia said Tuesday it will launch flights from Malaysia to five major Indian cities in 2010, with plans to carry two million passengers a year.

The new cities are Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Mumbai. AirAsia already flies from its Kuala Lumpur base to the Indian destinations of Kochi, Kolkata, Trichy and Trivandrum.

AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes said the carrier and its Kuala Lumpur hub was being positioned as a gateway between India and the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"AirAsia has well-arrived in the Indian market to change the very definition of low-cost airlines as the India market is booming," he said at a launch function.

Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat said the route expansion would help fuel tourism to Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country that is also home to ethnic Indian and Chinese communities.

"With the large number of Malaysians of Indian origin, we believe that Indian visitors will find themselves on familiar ground," he said.

Fernandes appealed for flexibility from Malaysian authorities, who have tightened visa regulations in an attempt to curb illegal migration, particularly from the southern city of Chennai.

"We live in this modern world, we have to deal with the guys who overstay but we should embrace liberalisation," he told reporters.

"So my advice is we focus on the positives, focus on the fact that India is going to become one of the richest countries in Asia, is going to be a phenomenally important trading country."

Prime Minister Najib Razak said at the weekend after an official visit to India that he hoped to introduce a new visa regime that would make it easier for Indian executives, businesspeople and tourists to visit Malaysia.

Fernandes said AirAsia, launched in December 2001 with just two aircraft, is now the region's fourth-largest carrier.

sls/dan

 

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