Australians who have booked flights to Europe with budget carrier AirAsia X after March will be affected by the airline's decision to suspend the flights in a cost-cutting move.
The long-haul unit of budget carrier AirAsia said yesterday it would suspend services to Paris and London and cut India flights in a bid to rein in costs.
The Malaysia-based airline cited global economic uncertainty, soaring taxes and higher jet fuel prices for the move, adding it would redeploy its fleet to profitable Asian and Australian routes.
AirAsia X, a unit of AirAsia, will cease services to Mumbai and Delhi from January 31 and March 22, respectively while routes to London and Paris will end on March 30 and March 31 respectively.
AirAsia X flies from to London and Paris from Melbourne, Perth and the Gold Coast via Kuala Lumpur.
The airline said passengers who hold bookings after these dates would be given an alternative travel option at no additional cost.
Passengers will receive an e-mail stating options available, including a full refund, a reroute to another AirAsia X destination, or a move to an alternative carrier where available.
The London route was launched in 2009, Mumbai and Delhi in 2010 and Paris in 2011. London and Paris were the only European routes the airline services.
Lee Atkinson of Coogee had booked flights with the airline to London, planning to attend the Olympics Games in July.
While the airline has promised to make alternative arrangements for passengers, Mr Atkinson says he is doubtful they will be able match the exact dates and times his family had arranged in order to take advantage of their Olympics tickets, won in the event lottery.
"To say we are absolutely gutted, is an understatement," he said.
"We pretty much spent a whole year saving up to go to the Olympics and to see family after many years. For us, it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
Mr Atkinson said he had booked accommodation, car hire and other arrangements in advance and that travel insurance would not cover any expenses incurred by having to make changes.
While concerned over the fate of his trip, Mr Atkinson said he was impressed by the airline's communication with its passengers. He said he had used Twitter to contact AirAsia X chief executive Azran Osman-Rani, who had responded to his tweets.
AirAsia X's successful sister airline AirAsia handles regional Asian routes under four hours' flight time.
Osman-Rani said the changes would boost the carrier's bottom line, refocusing its network "on markets where it can build a leadership position in 2012."
"We intend to concentrate capacity in our core markets of Australasia, China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea where we have built up stable, profitable routes within an infrastructure that supports low cost services," he said.
Azran blamed high jet fuel costs and weak passenger demand from Europe as among a host of factors compromising its efforts to offer low fares to the continent.
He blamed the weakened demand on "the current economic situation together with exorbitant government taxes."
"The implementation of the emissions trading scheme and the escalating air passenger duty taxes in UK, which will rise yet again in April 2012, forced our decision to withdraw our services to Europe," he added.
Azran said the Delhi and Mumbai routes were cut because of rising "airport and handling charges" and visa restrictions hampering travel between India and Malaysia.
AirAsia X was launched in 2007. Richard Branson's Virgin Group has a 20 per cent stake in the airline.
Last month flag carrier Malaysia Airlines said it would cut routes in Asia and axe flights to some global destinations such as to Rome and Johannesburg as it tries to return to profit.
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