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Low-Cost Flights to Asia Tipped for Return

December 20, 2013

airplaneOliver Smith, The Daily Telegraph, December 20, 2013

AirAsia X, the low-cost Malaysian airline, looks likely to return to Europe after announcing an order for 25 long-range aircraft.

Tony Fernandes, the airline's director and majority shareholder at Queens Park Rangers football club, said the $6 billion (£3.67bn) order "stamps our firm intent to dominate the long-haul, low-cost [market]".

Airbus said at a joint press conference in Paris that it would begin delivering the planes to the long-haul affiliate of the AirAsia group in 2015.

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The order includes the latest version of the Airbus A330-300, which capable of flying non-stop from Asia to Europe or the Americas.

"We need to come back to Europe and this aircraft is the right aircraft for us to come back," Mr Fernandes said at the news conference. AirAsia X had previously flown to London and Paris, but halted the routes in 2012.

Other low-cost airlines have tried to conquer the long-haul market in recent years. Norwegian, for example, flies from Europe to New York, Los Angeles, Orlando and Bangkok. In October it announced plans to launch routes from Gatwick to New York, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale with fares starting from £149 one-way. The thrice-weekly service will begin in July.

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Norwegian's foray into long-haul flying wasn't without incident. It was forced to rethink its policy regarding in-flight frills following complaints that passengers were left without food, drinks and blankets for up to 12 hours . It now provides free water and accepts cash for food and blankets, having previously only taken debit or credit card payments.

Ryanair also said this year that it still wants to offer transatlantic flights in the future. It has claimed flights to the U.S. could start from as little as £10 - not including baggage fees and extra charges.

AirAsia X was praised by Telegraph Travel readers in February after it became one of the first carriers to install child-free zones on its planes.

The policy means that children are banned from rows 7 to 14 – the first seven economy class rows – on selected Airbus A330-300 flights. Passengers booking online can choose to sit in that section by paying the standard seat reservation fee of RM35-RM110 (£6.50-£20.50). Any group containing a passenger younger than 12 will not be able to book these seats.

The zones also contain “special ambient lighting”, according to the Air Asia X website, providing a “more relaxing atmosphere”.

A subsequent poll found that nearly 70 per cent of readers supported the move.

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