AirAsia X Eyes Flights To California – The US’ Golden State

AirAsia X’s ambitions to fly to mainland North America aren’t new. AirAsiaX has long talked about using their A330neos and Tokyo’s Narita airport as a starting point for flights to California. With the first of the aircraft now being delivered, the low-cost carrier breathed new life into the story at an aviation conference yesterday, Monday, September 23, 2019.

AirAsia X wants flights to California to start in 2021. Photo: AirAsia.

Edward Russell in The Points Guy is reporting that AirAsiaX’s Muhammad Sharir was discussing the route at the Routes Online annual conference in Adelaide, Australia. Mr Sharir says the flights to the US mainland could start as soon as 2021, but was coy about where the flights would originate from or where they would fly to. Quite possibly because they haven’t sorted that out yet. 

Not yet a truly long haul carrier

AirAsiaX has some form as a long haul low-cost carrier. It started flights to both London and Paris around ten years ago. But the economic downturn doomed the flights and within a few years, the flights were canceled.

From their Kuala Lumpur hub, AirAsiaX now gets as far afield as Australia, Japan, China, South Korea and Hawaii. Strictly speaking, medium-haul rather than long haul but AirAsiaX wants to get back into the long haul business.

2021 is the proposed starting date for California flights, because Mr. Sharir said that’s when the A330neos they need to operate the route would be delivered and ready to fly. AirAsia X has confirmed orders for 78 A330neos.

Oakland out of favour

Oakland, California, has long been on AirAsiaX’s horizon. As Edward Russell notes, AirAsia X held a media event at the airport back in 2012 and wheeled out a plane painted in a local sports team’s colors. All very nice, but AirAsia X flights never appeared on the arrivals board at Oakland.

Despite the promotional Oakland Raiders livery in 2012, AirAsiaX flights to Oakland never eventuated. Photo: Oakland Raiders.

It seems Oakland has lost some of its allure for AirAsiaX, their preference swinging towards Los Angeles. But The Points Guy story thinks San Francisco is the most preferred option for the first AirAsia X North American flights.

Head of Group Communications at AirAsia X, Vanessa Regan, told Simple Flying;

“We are continuing to talk to airports and tourism partners about future potential expansion plans across the network which includes Asia Pacific, Southern Asia and the US.”

North America via Honolulu?

It also offers the rather delicious option of pinging out of Honolulu on the back of existing Osaka-Honolulu AirAsia X flights.

Whilst not a nonstop transpacific flight, it would make AirAsiaX the first low-cost carrier to offer a transpacific service. At this time, low-cost carriers coming from both east and west directions all terminate and coalesce at Honolulu. You could, technically, do the crossing on say, Southwest to Honolulu and then AirAsiaX on the last leg – which sounds like a lot of fun.

California flights via Honolulu are an interesting scenario for AirAsia X. Photo: AirAsia.

It would also see an Asian based low-cost carrier give the US low-cost incumbents a run for their money on the Hawaii-US mainland routes. The reaction at Southwest’s Dallas HQ would be priceless to see.

While this is an interesting scenario, nonstop flights out of Japan remain a live option. AirAsia X currently flies from Kuala Lumpur to Narita. Those flights could continue onto the US mainland.

Wait and see

It is also worth noting that AirAsia X has a history of announcing flights to North America that don’t eventuate. Whilst they do have the aircraft being delivered capable of making the flights, the 2021 starting date is still a while off and no routes have been announced

It will be a case of wait and see.