It all looked set to happen, Air Asia was looking for somewhere to expand in Europe, the market appears to exits, the airports (Gatwick, Amsterdam and Düsseldorf were mooted at one point) looked willing and able.
It also wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities that the growing interest of Scoot in European travel – they plan to start in chronically under-served Athens, would make it even more viable. Indeed with the self-imposed demise of Malaysian and its European routes (other than London), it all looked very promising.
But not any more. Having weighed up all the options, the aircraft types, the crew costs and staffing at European airports, Air Asia couldn’t make the sums add up. Flying to Europe is expensive, landing fees at Heathrow for an A330 for example are around £2,600. if you have it on stand for 90 minutes that’s free but otherwise you’re looking at around £208+ per hour, charged in 15 minute increments. When you think that every hour is eating the profit on probably 10 economy seats, it soon mounts up.
In fact the interesting thing about the Air Asia review, is that they determined regional flying is the only way to make their business model work, and long haul out of region, is actually not even vaguely viable. “We might go to Hawaii now and again, but the that’s as far as it goes”, said Tony Fernandez the airlines founder.
Knowing your limits in the airline business is as important as knowing your customers. Too many ambitious airlines have died a painful death from going a step too far.