Cargo matters at AirAsia

The story of how AirAsia got into the cargo business is emblematic of the carrier’s philosophy to business in general. Upon taking delivery of the very first A320 aircraft, the Branson-esque CEO of the then upstart AirAsia, Tony Fernandes pointed to the bellyhold, asking how the space could be maximised to generate revenue.


on cargo is not a simple matter, nor something that happens overnight. Indeed, cargo is an activity precious few low cost carriers (LCCs) dare to dirty their hands on. The very idea runs smack in the face of the LCC business model, one premised around high utilisation via very short turn-around times and of course, low overheads.“Cargo matters,” the head of cargo for Malaysia-based AirAsia group, Sathis Manoharen says emphatically. “Cargo presents an unique opportunity for the low cost model, but not many low cost airlines want to get involved in this business, for the simple reason that turnaround times are pretty tight compared to legacy airlines.”

“We’re defying convention – we think the other way – as we always do in AirAsia,” Manoharen says, echoing the mantra of his boss.

But contrarian thinking appearsto work because remarkably, AirAsia with a station turnaround time acrossits South, Southeast and East Asianpassenger network of just 25 minutesfor its narrowbody fleet, manages tobulk load 2.5-3.5 tonnes of cargo aboardits A320-200 aircraft within 22 minutes.

For AirAsia X, the AirAsia group’s long-haul arm, the carrier can load between 16 and 18 tonnes of cargo aboard its A330-300 aircraft within 60 minutes, snuggly within the widebody aircraft’s 75 minute turnaround window. AirAsia X currently flies to Australia (Perth, Melbourne and the Gold Coast), China (Chengdu, Hangzhou and Tianjin), India (Mumbai), Taiwan (Taipei) and the UK (London, Stansted).