Indonesia AirAsia X has opened sales on its second route into Australia, between Sydney and Bali (Denpasar), with the first flight from Sydney scheduled to take off on 17 October 2015. Indonesia AirAsia X will operate the route between Sydney and the popular Indonesian island getaway, with five flights per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
Indonesia AirAsia X will launch five weekly non-stop flights from Sydney to Bali from October, in a move that will place further pressure on Virgin Australia’s troubled international operations.
Virgin last week said it would switch its flights from Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth to Bali to low-cost arm Tigerair Australia from March as it looked to return its international operations to profitability over the next two years.
For now, Virgin has left its mainline brand on flights from Sydney and Brisbane to Bali but has left open the possibility of switching those to Tigerair in the future. In total, Indonesia AirAsia X’s A330-300 aircraft offer 377 seats, meaning the move represents a significant expansion of capacity on the Sydney-Bali route. It will be entering the market with more seats available than Virgin offers with its daily Boeing 737 flights with 176 seats.
The Indonesia AirAsia X flights have already been granted regulatory approval by Australian and Indonesian authorities, unlike its planned December launch of Melbourne-Bali services which were delayed to the anger of passengers. Mr Kurniawan admitted the delay caused brand damage in Australia, but he said the Melbourne-Bali route had since recovered, with around 80 per cent of seats filled in June and July.
Brisbane and the Gold Coast are among the possibilities. The AirAsia group is using Bali as a hub, meaning travellers can also fly on from there to other destinations like Jakarta, Bangkok, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur if they want a longer Asian holiday.
As in the Melbourne market, Virgin will now be competing against three rivals, Jetstar, Garuda Indonesia and AirAsia X on the Sydney-Bali route, all of which use widebody aircraft as opposed to the single-aisle 737s used by Virgin and soon, Tigerair. The Tigerair flights will be flown by Virgin’s international arm on behalf of Tigerair, using Virgin pilots but Tigerair cabin crew and an all-economy class configuration.
CAPA Centre for Aviation has noted the widebody aircraft offer significantly lower unit costs on routes of five to six hour length such as Melbourne-Bali and Sydney-Bali.
In addition to competition over fares, Virgin’s Bali operation has been struggling, like other operators, with flight cancellations due to the ongoing eruption of Mount Ruang. The costs to date for the carrier are understood to be in the single digit millions. Jetstar is Australia’s biggest operator of flights from Australia to Bali.
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