On Wednesday, June 9th, an executive at the Malaysia unit of the AirAsia Berhad Group said that around 90% of the airline’s fleet, which consists of more than 200 planes, had been grounded due to the increase in the COVID-19 outbreak all across Asia. Even Malaysia, which is the airline’s largest market with 105 planes, is under a lockdown. At a CAPA Centre for Aviation event on Wednesday, Chief Operating Officer, AirAsia Malaysia, Javed Anwar Malik said that the demand was expected to rebound from August onwards, which would eventually allow AirAsia Malaysia to restore its services to all 17 of the domestic airports it serves by October. He added that a complete return to the pre-COVID demand levels was not expected until the third quarter of 2022.
The number of passengers carried in the quarter which ended on March 31st was 9, 76, 968 and this was a 90% drop from a year ago. Last month, AirAsia had reported its seventh consecutive quarterly loss and said that it was carrying on with more efforts to secure more liquidity. Amidst the struggles of the pandemic, the group now looks at starting a dedicated freighter service as the demand for air cargo is steadily increasing across the globe. Teleport, which is the logistics venture of AirAsia Digital, is now strengthening its position as a crucial air logistics partner in Asia, with the operation of its first-ever freighter aircraft, which is a dedicated Boeing 737-800F. Along with this, two Airbus A320 passenger aircrafts have been converted into freighter aircrafts after the passenger seats were removed for optimal cargo capacity.
The conversion of the two Airbus aircraft is said to have been done by Asia Digital Engineering which is a fully-owned subsidiary of the group and by Thai AirAsia for the aircraft that will be based in Thailand. The freight operations are all set to commence from the third quarter of this year and the freighter will operate out of the Teleport Hub in Bangkok, Thailand. The additional freight capacity will prove to be of great help to solidify its route network between busy regions such as India, China, and Southeast Asia, and hence, the connectivity to and from Teleport’s long-haul markets will increase. The two converted A320 Airbus will be based in the strategic hubs of Kuala Lampur and Bangkok. And through these hubs, the aircraft will continue their operations to important cities such as Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Jakarta, and Yangon.
Chief Operating Officer of Teleport, Adrian Loretz said, “We are excited to share this expansion as we strengthen our logistics footprint across Asia. It was evident at the end of last year that the demand for cargo capacity was not going to be served with passenger belly capacity alone in the long run. So, we evaluated this option to utilize dedicated freighters to transport cargo. This is also part of our strategy to build the capacity and connectivity to offer 24 hours door-to-door delivery across all of South East Asia.”
Airlines all across the globe are facing an unprecedented crisis with a rapidly increasing need of raising cash and are facing risks of downsizing. In India alone, passenger traffic fell by nearly 30% in April from a month before and had halved again in May. Even IndiGo, which is the country’s biggest and most cashed-up had to act accordingly. As per what analysts say, smaller carriers like SpiceJet and privately-owned GoAir could soon come under pressure to reduce capacity, find partners or consolidate.
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