Tuesday, November 23, 2010

AirAsia president director Dharmadi announced in Darwin on Tuesday that daily flights would begin from December 23 between Darwin and Denpasar in Bali

Asian airline to establish Darwin hub
Larine Statham
November 23, 2010 - 2:39PM


Budget airline AirAsia will establish its fourth Australian hub in Darwin.

Indonesia AirAsia president director Dharmadi announced in Darwin on Tuesday that daily flights would begin from December 23 between Darwin and Denpasar in Bali.

AirAsia will become the second airline to fly the route currently serviced by JetStar.
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AirAsia already operates flights out of Melbourne, Perth and the Gold Coast, primarily to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

Concerns have been raised this year about the fees charged by Northern Territory Airports for carriers to operate out of Darwin Airport, as well as the flight time restrictions imposed on airlines.

Earlier this month, Tiger Airways cancelled flights, on which some passengers were already booked, between Darwin and Melbourne for a period of almost two months due to poor demand.

Mr Dharmadi told reporters in Darwin on Tuesday that AirAsia would trial the route for up to six months but that he was confident of its success.

"We will stay as long as you fly ... hopefully forever," he said.

He said the low-cost airline had not dumped any of its routes, either in Australia or Asia, since it began operating a decade ago.

He said the cost of operating out of Darwin per unit would reduce as passenger load numbers increased.

Mr Dharmadi said Bali had always been a very popular short break destination for Australians but added that Denpasar was fast becoming an AirAsia hub for connecting flights into other parts of Asia.

He said he hoped the move would result in more Indonesians visiting the Northern Territory.

Northern Territory Airports chief executive officer Ian Kew said "exciting new airlines" were being attracted to Darwin to establish themselves in the "Australian gateway to Asia" market.

He said $40 million would be spent expanding the airport over the next two years.

"We welcome competition ... and I know the boss of JetStar will welcome it as well," Mr Kew said, adding that negotiations with AirAsia had been running for about 12 months.

He said Darwinians had been "cut off" in the past and were forced to travel through places like Brisbane to get to Asia.

To celebrate the new route Mr Dharmadi said 10,000 $99(AUD) one-way flights would go on sale at midnight on Tuesday, to fly between December 23 and November, 2011.

He said that when the four-day sale concluded, the flights would typically be priced between $175 to $200, but that they could cost up to $400.

NT Tourism Minister Malarndirri McCarthy said, in a statement released on Tuesday, inbound flights would boost the NT economy.

The Top End currently attracts about 11,000 visitors from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand each year.

The tourism industry employs around 18,000 people in the NT and contributes $1.7 billion to the economy.

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