Thai AirAsia X withdraws from the Middle East

Thai AirAsia X aircraft at Don Mueang Airport in Bangkok

it is the second time that AirAsia X (the Malaysian affiliate and now the Thai subsidiary) leaves the Middle East. Back to 2009, AirAsia X launched a six-weekly flight linking Kuala Lumpur to Abu Dhabi in an Airbus A340-300. It took then just three months to the carrier to leave the market, after failing to secure a sufficient number of passengers while competitor Etihad Airways was entering at that time a code-share with Malaysia Airlines.

With much fanfare, Thai AirAsia X announced to start flying to the Middle East last summer, offering six weekly services to Teheran and Muscat (Oman). The Bangkok-Teheran route was flown on Monday, Wednesday and Friday with an Airbus A330-300. It was already terminated last month and despite telling to resumer the flight after January 1st, they are only options on the website to reach teheran on the low cost carrier via Kuala Lumpur.

On January 14, the airline will also stop serving Oman from Bangkok (flights were proposed on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday). Bangkok-Muscat was the only service to Oman.

The only two routes left on a schedule basis to the Middle East will now be Kuala Lumpur-Jeddah and Kuala Lumpur-Teheran with AirAsia X. They are also charter flights organised to Mecca during the Haj pilgrimage.

Kuala Lumpur-Teheran frequencies will be increased from February to four flights a week as the airline has been registering a load factor of 80% since reinstating the flight in June 2016. Malaysia signed a bilateral trade agreement with Iran at the end of last year with a target to double the trade volume within the next three years (US$700 million in 2015) between both countries. Iran is also turning into a potential travel market with a growing middle class. According to data 12% to 15% of Iranians are considered high income households over a total of 80 million inhabitants.