On October 23 budget airline company AirAsia (亚洲航空公司) announced direct flights linking Kunming and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The Spring City could have been enjoying the fruits of this relationship for several years already were it not for some unfortunate missteps.
Kathleen Tan, now an AirAsia executive, first came to Kunming on business three years ago. She was sent to secure rights for the fledgling company to use Wujiaba Airport as its first portal in China. She was not successful.
"My first visit to China was so horrible I could write a book," Tan told an interviewer in 2009. Her meeting in Kunming did not go as planned. According to the report, Tan was not met with enthusiasm:
In halting Mandarin she did her best to introduce the unknown carrier to a room of 15 chain-smoking executives at Kunming airport, who were bent on holding their own side conversations.
Tan took her proposals to Xiamen instead and there signed a deal that allowed AirAsia to operate in China. Today the company has 24 routes servicing China, including the newly added flight from Kunming to Kuala Lumpur. According to Tan, AirAsia is now the largest foreign-owned carrier in terms of capacity into the mainland.
The newly-announced Kunming-Kuala Lumpur flights were initially offered at a promotional rate of 88 yuan. Prices for one-way tickets have since risen but as of this writing were still steeply discounted.
The route, which goes into operation December 10, will use Airbus A320 planes that seat 180 passengers. Flights will depart from Kunming Changshui International Airport four times each week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
The addition of Kuala Lumpur to Changshui's list of directly-serviced international cities raises the total number to 12. International flights departing Changshui currently reach Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam (currently suspended).
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