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In May 2013, Norwegian Air Shuttle, an unknown low-cost carrier at the time, began flights between the US and Europe. Before Norwegian’s entry, flights to Europe were cheap when they dipped under $800, and you needed an “amazing” error fare to get flights in the mid-$300s. The airline has helped usher in much cheaper transatlantic travel for people based both in the US and Europe. Not only does Norwegian continue to offer jaw-dropping fares, but it’s also put pressure on the legacy carriers to drastically drop their prices to compete.
While the transpacific market has its share of low-price mainland Chinese airlines, there isn’t a true low-cost carrier competing in the transpacific market. However, we may be closer to seeing that change, as AirAsia X announced that it’s received the green light to start flying routes to the US.
For now, the initial route chatter is only about flights from AirAsia X’s hub in Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Honolulu (HNL). While this route won’t help most of us get to Asia for cheap, this approval opens the door for AirAsia X to launch routes anywhere in the US.
That is, any city that AirAsia X will be able to reach. There’s a reason that Honolulu is the only city mentioned for now. AirAsia X’s fleet solely consists of Airbus A330-300s, for which Airbus lists 6,350 nautical miles as the operating range. So, Hawaii and Alaska are the only current route options to the US from the airline’s KUL hub.
If you’re looking for cheap mostly-lie-flats to Asia, start getting excited about AirAsia X’s launch. Just like Norwegian’s Premium class, AirAsia X’s “Premium Flatbed” product currently offers long-haul intra-Asia flyers a chance to get out of the tight squeeze in the back for a modest cost. We’re optimistic that the airline will offer the same product on flights to/from the US. If you want to get an idea what you could expect, TPG Contributor Richard Kerr had a pleasant experience flying this product in 2015 from Tokyo (NRT) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL).
There’s still plenty of work to come before AirAsia X will start flying routes in the US. But, today’s approval is a huge step in the right direction in bringing an Asian low-cost carrier to the US market. Hopefully this will spark further competition among legacy airlines, leading to a similar price war we’ve seen with transatlantic flights recently.
H/T: Routes Online
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images.
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