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Friday, January 05, 2007

Asia-Europe budget airline

When I was in Kuala Lumpur last week, the plans of Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes to launch a long-haul service to Europe were getting a lot of attention.

Fernandes is the founder of AirAsia, the top budget carrier in South-East Asia and plans to begin his long-haul budget service on the Kuala Lumpur-London route. Direct flying time is about 13 hours.

Last year we carried a story on the very attractive cost of living in Kuala Lumpur. The country is also a very attractive tourist location.

I had the pleasure of staying in the 5-star Mandarin Oriental Hotel in KL, at a rate comparable with Jurys Inn budget rates in Dublin. A visit to the dentist for teeth-cleaning cost €11 - and it was a dentist who did the task. A filling can cost as low as €15.

Analysts suggest that the requirement to provide food on long-haul flights, creates a difficulty in applying the low-cost airline model.

However, what strikes me is that the quality of food and service for economy passengers on legacy carriers, has set a very low threshold.

On a Kuala Lumpur-Doha flight last week, the tantalizing selection for breakfast was scrambled eggs and cheese and omelette and cheese. I hate eggs.

After a 90 minute layover at Doha, it was still breakfast (which for an airline is convenient) and Hobson's Choice was again on the menu again.


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