Becoming the first Australian city to operate a second international airport is a major coup for Melbourne. We check in with the chief of AirAsia, Tony Fernandes, about the first overseas flights planned later this year from Avalon Airport. Located between Melbourne and Geelong and employing some 200 people, Avalon is Melbourne’s second curfew-free international airport set to open Geelong, Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road to even more international visitors.
In late 2018, AirAsia will launch a twice-daily return service from Avalon Airport to Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur. It’ll be the airport’s first overseas service. Any date set for the first flight?
The goal for us is to be flying by the end of the year. At the moment, we’re working very closely with Avalon Airport to ensure we have the right infrastructure and facilities in place. It’s important to acknowledge the great deal of effort AirAsia, Avalon Airport, our partners and both the Federal and Victorian Governments are putting into this move. For us, it’s about making sure that we get it right for our guests so come that first flight everything is both seamless and comfortable.
How significant is a second international airport to satellite cities, such as Geelong?
Firstly, kudos to Avalon Airport, its owners (the Fox family) and, of course, the various levels of government support that have helped to get this exciting project underway. Not many Australians know this, but AirAsia has a track record for creating demand for air travel to many secondary and tertiary cities across Asia. Before AirAsia flew to Bandung (the capital of Indonesia’s West Java district famous for tea plantations), no one knew where it was, but it’s now a popular tourist destination. We hope to be able to do the same here for the people of greater Geelong. The opportunity to support and nurture the local area is extremely important to us.
How many international passengers are expected to move through Avalon Airport in the first year?
Our total seat capacity on the route is projected to be around 560,000 passengers.
And projected figures for the second year?
I’d hope to be able to say more than the previous year, and more exciting destinations for Australians.
How will Avalon Airport enhance Victorian – and indeed Australian – connections with Asia and southeast Asia from a tourism and business perspective?
As a truly ASEAN carrier, we’re confident the move will provide a significant boost to local tourism and help create more jobs for the region. Importantly, we’re proud to be able to lay the foundations for new business and trade opportunities for the Geelong region to connect with ASEAN – home to some of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
Are more direct international routes for Avalon Airport in the pipeline?
We’d welcome the opportunity to be able to connect more Australians to our ever-growing list of destinations, so far more than 130 across Asia, the Middle East and the US. I’ll be watching the move closely to see what opportunities might exist for us into the future. Australia has always been a very special place for AirAsia. Back in 2007, we decided to fly the very first AirAsia X flight to the Gold Coast, and last year we celebrated 10 years on that route. And towards the end of this year, we’ll celebrate 10 years of operating into Perth.