AirAsia eyes 1bn flyers by 2026
Group seeks to become digital travel and lifestyle company
AirAsia Group aims to connect more than 1 billion passengers in Southeast Asia by 2026 via its aviation unit, which is expected to include a new joint venture airline after restructuring the firm into an investment holding company called Capital A.
Capital A chief executive Tony Fernandes said because AirAsia's load factor and flights in the fourth quarter posted record highs, its furlough policy is expected to be terminated by next week.
He said the only challenges are border reopenings and restrictions in other countries.
However, Mr Fernandes said more people realise Omicron is less dangerous than other Covid variants and could become endemic, as is happening in the UK, which was not plausible six months ago.
The airline will bounce back as long as borders are opened, as the domestic market has already returned to pre-Covid levels, he said.
Feedback from flights to Cambodia that recently resumed is positive, said Mr Fernandes.
AirAsia expects to see international flight capacity return to normal by the second or third quarter this year.
"Things are moving in the right direction and we hope that new variants after Omicron will be less deadly so we can get back to what we do best -- aviation," he said.
Mr Fernandes said the aviation group is working on a new joint venture airline with either one or two other carriers in Southeast Asia.
The goal for its airlines in the next five years is to carry more than 1 billion passengers throughout the region with an aircraft utilisation rate of more than 13 hours per day, he said.
AirAsia X, its long-haul affiliate that was recently restructured, is planning routes to London and New York that can cater to both passenger and cargo demand.
The airline plans to announce new long-haul routes in the next six months, said Mr Fernandes.
Yesterday the company announced its name change from AirAsia Group to Capital A. The new name represents a different approach beyond air travel, embracing digitalisation to become a digital travel and lifestyle company, he said.
Airline operation remains under AirAsia to capitalise on established brand recognition across Asia. Capital A caters to more digital businesses, including logistics, financial services and engineering to increase the share from non-airline revenue to 50% by 2026, said Mr Fernandes.
He said AirAsia aims to allow everyone to fly, connecting new destinations and the underserved.
"We are continuing my dream to create a company for everyone," said Mr Fernandes.