Will AirAsia Ever Return To Europe?

AirAsia is one of the largest and most well-known low-cost carriers in Asia. However, despite the airline’s large reach in Asia, their long-haul flights to Europe are slim. Since 2012, AirAsia has not operated any routes to European cities from Southeast Asia. But, will AirAsia make a return to Europe?

Air Asia A330
Could AirAsia return to Europe? Photo: AirAsia

Flights to Europe

Back in 2012, AirAsia ceased flights to Europe. The airline used widebodies, including the A330, on these long-haul flights, but found that the service didn’t work out for them. AirAsia did not turn a major profit on these routes, so they ended up canceling their service. However, that does not seem to be the end of the line for AirAsia flights to Europe.

Now, Business Traveller reports that Air Asia has a “dream” to go back to Europe, although it doesn’t seem like this will be happening anytime soon. However, there could still be hope, as AirAsia does operate other long-haul flights.

AirAsia A330
AirAsia does operate long-haul routes to destinations such as Brisbane. Photo: AirAsia

Why AirAsia doesn’t fly to Europe

According to CEO Tony Fernandes, there is simply too much capacity to justify AirAsia services to Europe. Plenty of carriers, from British Airways to KLM to Lufthansa, operate direct links between points in East and Southeast Asia with European cities.

Featured Video:

AirAsia is a low-cost carrier. In comparison to full-service carriers, AirAsia will charge less for their products, however, they do not provide all the frills and amenities of a full-service carrier. Despite this, the airline does have a business class product, although their angle-flat seats are not competitive with some of today’s products.

Air Asia flatbed
AirAsia offers angle-flat seats in business class.

AirAsia could return to Europe

AirAsia could make a return to Europe. Ultimately, the airline has 100 A330-900neo aircraft on order. These are more fuel efficient and offer better operating economics than older A330s. The A330neos have the capability to operate long-haul flights with heavy loads. AirAsia is known for some of, but not the most, dense aircraft configurations. In fact, their A330-900neo seats 377 passengers! There are 12 seats in business and 365 in economy.

AirAsia A330neo
AirAsia can use their new A330-900neo on routes to Europe. Photo: Simple Flying

AirAsia will likely need a connecting partner in Europe. Full-service carriers will probably steer clear of partnering with AirAsia. However, a low-cost carrier like Norwegian may seize the opportunity. Across low-cost carriers, joint-ventures and connections allow for less of a shock to passengers as they transition from one carrier to the next. Furthermore, Norwegian has signaled an interest in partnering with an Asian carrier. AirAsia could fit that bill.

When will AirAsia return to Europe?

It is very unlikely that AirAsia will launch flights to Europe in the near future. The idea is under intense scrutiny and AirAsia will have to justify the operating costs of the route. Ultimately, operating loss-making routes doesn’t work well for any carrier. It will likely take a few years for AirAsia to sign up the necessary partners and build up the infrastructure and ground operations needed to launch flights to Europe.

Furthermore, it also depends on their A330neo deliveries. Without the A330neo, AirAsia likely could not make flights to Europe work since current A330s are not as fuel-efficient.

Previously, the airline has flirted with flights to the United States on A330neos. It is unclear if flights to Europe or the U.S. are more desirable for AirAsia.

Would you fly AirAsia to Europe? Let us know in the comments!

13 comments
  1. Actually, I can see plenty of opportunity for them.
    The most competitive fares between Europe and Asia are generally offered by the ME3 — who, of course, all require a stopover in the Gulf. The full-service carriers are generally much more expensive. So, if Air Asia can offer fares comparable to (or under) the ME3 fares, and can offer a direct flight rather than a stopover, then there’s an opening for them.
    As regards comfort (in economy): the Emirates A380s set a higher standard than the AirAsia A330neos, but the AirAsia A330neos set a higher standard than the 3-4-3 B777s / B787s used by the ME3.
    In addition, there are European countries that are currently very underserved as regards direct routes to Asia. For example, there are only two carriers offering direct flights to Asia from Ireland, and what direct flights are there from the Baltic States, Hungary or Romania, for example?

      1. Not just KUL. If AirAsia were to fly directly from Europe to Thailand, that might prove to be VERY lucrative for them 🙂

    1. In terms of Baltic states, I think Wizz have eyes on Dubai flights from lots of those places… maybe Air Baltic in the future too?

  2. Of course Ill fly to the west by Air Asia. Why not if I can pay less with Air Asia. If you think of pampering yourself with comfort why not just stay at home.

  3. This is a situation where many people would prefer to pay slightly more to skip the budget airline experience. With mainline carrier fares already so low, why wouldn’t you pay $100 more to full services?

    1. Well, if you’re a student travelling on a shoestring, or are taking a family with you, then budget fares can be the deciding factor in choosing a carrier. The same applies to adults on a menial income.
      And there’s also the convenience factor: a lot of people are VERY put off by the prospect of having to change planes at a hub…often in the middle of the night.

    2. I absolutely would, if there was a flight to where I wanted to go offered at $100 more on a full service airline, that’s the one I’d choose. But what Nigel said is right… when we wanted to go to Malaysia last, we had Garuda from London which was direct but only to Jakarta in Indonesia (however, it was in the region of $600 cheaper for my family of four). A five hour layover is no fun with two young kids when your bodyclock thinks its 2am. Air Asia will win for me if they start direct routes to where I want to go at a price I like.

  4. If Air Asia were to fly to Europe, we have no guarantee that they’d configure the planes in a 3-3-3 set-up, like their flights within Asia Pacific; the latter last about 8 hours max, whereas flights to/from Europe can fall in the 12-14 hour range. If they opted for a 2-4-2 configuration at 32″ pitch, they could still offer a very competitive price, as long as the load factors are high. Aer Lingus use 2-4-2 A330s across the Atlantic at very attractive prices, and they still make a profit.

    1. Has anyone here actually flown on Air Asia? I have and it’s not pretty. They squeeze as many seats as possible into their aircraft. 9 across in a a330 16-17″ seat width with 28-29″ pitch. Try that for 11 hours and then you have to pay extra for food, drinks, blanket, pillow etc. So $100 extra on a full service airline is looking pretty good.

      1. Yes, I have. The price difference was $300, not $100. The seat width was comparable to a Dreamliner, and there was no annoying IFE box at my feet. Not luxurious at all, but stunning value for money.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recommended Stories: