Malaysia-Based Airlines to Start Flying to Central Asia


Malaysia-based airlines are set to finally introduce Central Asia destinations in their network as more travellers are keen to explore the untapped region.

Two of these airlines are AirAsia X Bhd, which plans to fly to Almaty, Kazakhstan and Batik Air Malaysia (Batik Air) which will add Tashkent, Uzbekistan into its expanding network. 

Both carriers will be flying to these destinations from Kuala Lumpur. 

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Almaty-Kuala Lumpur route was served by Kazakhstan’s national airline, Air Astana while Tashkent-Kuala Lumpur route was operated by JSC Uzbekistan Airways.

Malaysia Aviation Commission (Mavcom) said it has given the air traffic rights (ATR) approval to AirAsia X to operate the Almaty route while Batik Air also received the nod to fly to Tashkent. 

Batik Air also received ATR to operate Kuala Lumpur-Okinawa, Japan route via Taipei. 

The approvals were given in the second quarter of 2023. 

“Airlines are required to utilise the ATRs allocated within six months from the approved effective date by Mavcom to avoid the expiry of the ATRs granted,” Mavcom said in its ATR report for the second quarter of 2023 (Q2 2023).

An aviation analyst told the New Straits Times (NST) that this would mean that Batik Air and AirAsia X would need to begin the operations by end of 2023 to avoid the expiry of the ATR allocations. 

The NST reported in May this year that Batik Air, a subsidiary of Indonesia’s Lion Group, would begin direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Tashkent by end-2023. 

Lion Group group strategic director Datuk Chandran Rama Muthy said the carrier was looking to operate three times weekly flights between Malaysia and Uzbekistan with the first flight most likely commencing in November this year. 

He said then that currently Batik Air was ironing out several details with authorities from Islam Karimov International Airport (TAS) and awaiting their green light to start operating the flights. 

TAS is the largest international airport in Uzbekistan and the third busiest airport by passenger traffic in Central Asia in 2019.

The NST also reported since October 2019 that AirAsia X would introduce the Kuala Lumpur-Almaty flight.

Many discussions were held between the long-haul budget carrier and the Civil Aviation Committee of Kazakhstan as well as the embassy of Kazakhstan in Malaysia in the last four years. 

On July 27, a meeting was held between the embassy and AirAsia X’s non-independent non-executive director, Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, AirAsia X chief executive Benyamin Ismail as well as representatives of the airline at the carrier’s office, RedQ in Sepang. 

It is believed that AirAsia X and Batik Air are now awaiting the green light from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to start their planned routes. 

Mavcom also granted ATRs to Firefly, an airline subsidiary of Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), for flights from Kota Kinabalu to Narita and Taipei as well as Capital A Bhd’s cargo unit Teleport for freighter flights to Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Tawau. 

MYAirline Sdn Bhd has received ATR approvals to Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. The carrier has started Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok flights since June this year. 

In the second quarter, Mavcom had awarded a total of 57 ATRs to the Malaysian civil aviation sector between April and June 2023, consisting of 45 international and 12 domestic routes. 

Mavcom also said the ATR applications had an increase of 85.7 per cent in Q2 2023 compared to the same quarter in 2022 which signals a strong momentum in the aviation sector. 

However, it saw an 11.7 per cent decrease of ATR applications in Q2 2023 compared with the first quarter of 2023. 

Mavcom executive chairman, Datuk Seri Saripuddin Kasim said the regulator has approved ATRs for various new destinations and new hub connections as part of the commission’s continued efforts to ensure that Malaysia’s aviation industry remains dynamic and responsive to the global trends. 

“These decisive measures are specifically tailored to enhance connectivity, spur economic growth, and catalyse the recovery of the aviation sector.”

“We’re particularly encouraged to see airlines seizing these opportunities for expansion,” Saripuddin said a statement.

Source : Straits Times