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AirAsia X plans to start flying to London in March

AIRASIA X expects to start flying to London in March 2009, chief executive Azran Osman-Rani said.

The long-haul budget airline hopes to fly to London's Stansted Airport but is also discussing with two other possible low-cost airports there.

Stansted is preferred because of its self-connectivity, he said.

"We hope to launch our first flight to London in March. Bookings will open in November," he said on the sidelines of the Routes Leaders Forum 2008 in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

The airline had originally intended to start the flights late this year.

Azran said however, that it had to be delayed as the airline was still finalising operational details.

AirAsia X, which currently flies to Australia's Gold Coast and Perth as well as Hangzhou in China, also expects to initiate flights to Melbourne next month.

Meanwhile, Azran said the airline's operations have so far escaped brunt of the global financial crisis.

"We haven't seen a drop in customer demand. This year, we don't expect a problem, but next year, it's anybody's guess," he remarked.

Later, speaking at a forum on environmental issues, he said one of the major issues affecting new airlines such as AirAsia X, is having to comply with the European Union's emissions trading scheme (ETS).

Under the new directive, all flights in, to or from the EU area will be included in the ETS from 2012.

In aviation the aim is to cap (the quantity of aviation allowances allocated each year to airlines) in 2012 at 97 per cent of their average level between 2004-2006.

Without a baseline (an average of 2004-2006) to work with a growing airline such as AirAsia X will be accorded with a special reserve of free allowances of up to a limit of one million allowances.

Should it exceed the carbon footprint it is allocated, AirAsia X will then have to purchase carbon credits to offset the additional increase.

"Despite having possibly the most fuel efficient and technologically advanced fleet of planes we will be at a disadvantage. And we are trying to expand...., the scheme is obviously anti-growth," Azran said.

Azran said Asian airlines are seen to be less environmentally correct because "we do not talk in environment language".

"We do talk a lot about being extremely efficient, which comes to about the same thing. We do not de-couple environment as one issue, we see it as part of operational efficiency," Azran said.



By Adeline Paul Raj and   Presenna  Nambiar

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