AirAsia, the Malaysian low-cost carrier, has announced plans to resume services that will connect the city of Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, Malaysia, to Macau and Beijing, according to a report published by the local Malaysian newspaper, The Borneo Post.

More flights from Kota Kinabalu

AirAsia has been making efforts to resume its operations between Malaysia and various destinations in China since the country reopened its borders after ending its zero-COVID policy in December 2022.

According to the report, the Malaysian low-cost carrier will be reconnecting Kota Kinabalu International Airport (BKI) to Macau International Airport (MFM) with four flights per week, starting in July 2023. AirAsia will also resume flights between BKI Airport and Beijing with seven weekly flights from July 1, 2023, marking the first direct flight between BKI Airport and China's new Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX).

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AirAsia did not specify the type of aircraft it will use on these routes. However, the airline's options are limited to three models: the Airbus A320, the A321, or the A330.

Airasia Airbus A320 on runway
Photo: Jaggat Rashidi/Shutterstock

It is worth noting that AirAsia will be the only airline connecting Sabah state capital directly to the capital of China, with its new route from Kota Kinabalu to Beijing Daxing. AirAsia's Sabah network plays a significant role as one of its three main hubs in Malaysia, aside from Kuala Lumpur, where the airline operates 20 domestic and international routes.

Sabah offers a range of international routes with AirAsia, including seven weekly flights to Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Wuhan, and Guangzhou. Taipei is also included in the list, with seven weekly flights available. In addition, there are 14 weekly flights to Singapore.

A low-cost leader in China

Currently, AirAsia is China's largest foreign low-cost carrier, with a 45% market share, following the recent resumption of flights to and from key cities Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Nanning, Wuhan, Kunming, Macao, and Hong Kong.

Notably, the airline operates 35 routes in China, with a combined total of 287 weekly flights from Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines in May. The airline group plans to increase this number to 317 weekly flights by adding new routes such as Kuala Lumpur to Shantou, Kota Kinabalu to Beijing Daxing, Bangkok Don Mueang to Xi'an, and Cebu to Shenzhen between June and July 2023.

AirAsia A321neo
Photo: AirAsia

Commenting on the China market rebound, AirAsia Malaysia CEO Riad Asmat said:

"China has always been one of our most important key markets. The two routes will contribute about 10% additional capacity to our China network, and we remain committed to expanding the connectivity to Malaysia further, which is a popular destination for Chinese tourists.

"Having most of China's routes back on our network will help the growth of the tourism sector, an important asset for the nation's economy. We hope that our vast network will contribute to the Ministry of Tourism Arts and Culture's target of 16.1 million international tourist arrivals this year."

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Sources: The Borneo Post