Indonesia AirAsia X says it plans to start direct flights between Melbourne and Bali from March 18, following the green light from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to operate in this country.
CASA said on Wednesday it had cleared the airline to begin flights Down Under and granted it an air operator’s certificate.
“This means Indonesia AirAsia X now has approval for flights between Melbourne and Denpasar,” CASA said in a statement.
“The airline has demonstrated to CASA that it meets all applicable safety requirements.
“Like all other foreign and domestic airlines Indonesia Air Asia X will be subject to regular safety oversight and surveillance by CASA.”
Indonesia AirAsia X said in a statement the Melbourne-Bali route would initially operate two days a week from March 18 with Airbus A330-300 aircraft configured with 365 economy and 12 business class seats, before increasing to five times weekly from May 1.
The newest affiliate of the AirAsia group of airlines started selling tickets for its inaugural route linking the Victorian capital and the popular Indonesian tourist destination in October 2014, with sale fares as low as A$99 one-way.
However, it began informing passengers via text message on Christmas Day the flights that were due to start on December 26 were cancelled due to the airline not receiving the necessary regulatory approvals in time.
As a result, passengers were routed through Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia AirAsia X, adding hours to their journey to Bali and inconveniencing thousands of passengers.
AirAsia founder and group chief executive Tony Fernandes said it was a case of “bad timing” over Christmas for the delay in receiving CASA approval and apologised to all affected customers.
“We have been working very closely with CASA and are very pleased to have their full approval to operate as we have met all their requirements throughout this process,” Fernandes said in a statement.
“We adhere to standard aviation practice in selling the flights but unfortunately we were caught up by bad timing during Christmas, in which we were not able to rectify the matter in time.
“We deeply apologise for the inconvenience caused to all our guests and now look forward to welcoming them on board.
Ticket sales would begin once final documentation was completed, Fernandes said.
Indonesia AirAsia X operated its inaugural flight on January 19, when XT900 took off from Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport bound for Taipei Taoyuan Airport. The airline joins existing AirAsia X bases in Malaysia and Thailand flying widebody Airbus A330-300 aircraft on routes longer than four hours.
AirAsia X is a separate entity from the short-haul focused AirAsia group, which operates narrow body Airbus A320s from hubs in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and India on routes of less than four hours’ duration.
However, both AirAsia and AirAsia X share the same website and have a common booking system. Moreover, staff wear the same uniforms and the aircraft are painted in a similar livery.
AirAsia X group chief executive Datuk Kamarudin Meranun said Indonesia AirAsia X planned to grow its Bali hub to 16 destinations within Asia over time.
He noted the AirAsia group of airlines had carried about 7.5 million passengers between Australia and Asia since 2007.