PETALING JAYA: AirAsia Malaysia could emerge as South-East Asia’s largest airline in 2019 by passenger traffic and seat capacity, thereby overtaking current leader Lion Air, said CAPA Centre for Aviation.
The growth will be from all its five bases (KLIA2, Johor Baru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Penang). It also plans to add five or six more new aircraft in 2019, including the A321neos, to its fleet and by 2020 it would have over 100 aircraft.
However, its biggest challenge that could set back its growth would be infrastructure and resource issues as the airline struggles to find pilots and parking bays.
Last year, AirAsia Malaysia carried 29.2 million passengers with 94 aircraft as the second largest South-East Asian airline in passenger traffic, while Lion Air was in top spot with 35.4 million and 115 aircraft.
This was followed by Garuda International (24 million passengers and 143 aircraft), Vietnam Airlines (21.9 million; 87), and Thai Airways (20 million; 78). Singapore Airlines was in seventh spot with 9.4 million passengers (119 aircraft) and Malaysia Airlines at the tenth spot with 14 million passengers and 83 aircraft.
CAPA expects AirAsia Malaysia to carry 32 million passengers this year, and up to 36 million in 2019.
“AirAsia Malaysia share of total passengers traffic in Malaysia increased from 35% in 2014 to 39% in 2017% and 40% this year,’’ said CAPA analyst Bendran Sobie.
He adds that “AirAsia Malaysia is planning double digit expansion capacity in 2019.’’
AirAsia Malaysia’s market share in the country exceeded 40% for the first time this year as it benefited from capacity reductions at Malindo Air and Malaysia Airlines.
Within the AirAsia Group, AirAsia Malaysia is the largest airline, operating 94 A320s to 56 international and 17 domestic destinations.
While AirAsia Malaysia plans to add five or six new aircraft to its fleet, he believes Lion Air was not planning such expansion in 2019.
Passenger traffic at Lion has declined since reaching its peak of 36 million in 2014. This is because it is focusing on growing its two overseas ventures, Malindo Air and Thai Lion Air, and its full service Indonesian subsidiary, Batik Air.
This year AirAsia increased its fleet size by ten new aircraft and that allowed it to grow seat capacity by more than 15%. The airline also launched 12 new routes and five new destinations of which two were domestic and three international, while added frequencies on 45 existing routes.
He added that the short haul LCC was planning to deploy the A321neo on high frequency route particularly connecting Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak. This will result in a 28% seat capacity increase compared to the A320ceo, or a 24% increase compared to its new A320neo fleet without having to mount additional flights.
CAPA adds that the A321neos will allow Malaysia AirAsia to increase capacity in slot constrained international destination such as Hong Kong, and the aircraft will reduce its already low unit costs and result in more efficient use of limited pilot resources.