New budget airlines set to take off in Asia

Customers in Asia are set to get more low-cost flight options with the arrival of new budget carriers in Malaysia and Thailand.

This month has seen two major carriers confirm their intention to compete with budget airlines such as AirAsia, which dominates travel in the ASEAN region from its hub in Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur's dedicated low-cost terminal.

First off, Malaysia Airlines announced an aggressive expansion plans for its budget subsidiary Firefly, promising that it would fly larger planes more economically than AirAsia.

It will adjust its routes to reflect its new strategy, said the company's boss Eddy Leong, launching new services to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia and will add more planes to its destinations in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.

It also plans to make it easier for passengers to connect with Malaysia Airlines flights, in the same way that AirAsia is fed by its longhaul carrier AirAsia X.

Thailand's flag carrier Thai Airways also confirmed this week that it would launch its new low-cost carrier Thai Tiger in May 2011, three months later than planned but still in time for the busy summer season.

The airline is set to expand the routes already offered in Thailand from Thai Airways and the smaller carrier Nok Air, as well as adding new low-cost options internationally.

After a slow start, aviation analysts predict that the low-cost carrier market in Asia is set to boom in the coming years, rivalling the booming budget industry that now exists in Europe and the US.

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