Christchurch Airport rues airline decision

Decision by AirAsia X met with dismay at airport

The news AirAsia X will soon stop flying direct to Christchurch has been met with dismay at Christchurch Airport.

Christchurch International Airport CEO Jim Boult says he is very unhappy the airport will lose its direct link to Kuala Lumpur.

"We are bitterly disappointed at the airline's decision to end the Kuala Lumpur to Christchurch direct flights, but understand the situation AirAsia X finds itself in," says Mr Boult.

"AirAsia X began planning the Christchurch-Kuala Lumpur service in early 2010. Since that time aviation fuel prices have increased by more than 30 percent and are forecast to stay high for the foreseeable future," he says.

"That has put huge pressure on the airline's low cost model, and, combined with the length of the Kuala Lumpur to Christchurch sector, has made the service unprofitable for the airline, which has been offering fares as low as $99. "

Mr Boult says the AirAsia X direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Christchurch have had average loadings of almost 80%, with some months near 90%. He says forward bookings for the next couple of months are promising, despite the airline recently withdrawing its connecting flights to Europe on which many travellers relied.

He says the airline's year of flying here has proven the route is viable, highlighted by AirAsia X winning an international award for "Best Network Performance" at the World Routes Awards 2011.

"We are very sorry to see AirAsia X depart, but sincerely hope we can welcome it back in the future. CIAL had invested years of work into attracting the carrier to Christchurch and we hope that work can be banked as an investment in a future service.

"I feel greatly for the tourism industry in the South Island. Many operators have told us how much the AAX service has delivered in direct new business, so this loss will be felt through the entire industry".

Mr Boult says AAX is working with Air New Zealand on proposals to offer travellers who've already booked beyond the end of May, on flights to Christchurch via Australia.

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