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Asean Affairs  17 December 2010

Air travel bringing Asia closer together

By  David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs     17 December 2010

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One of the major developments in the last several years has been the rise of budget airlines in Asia, allowing a large number of people to not only fly for the first time and to increase the amount of tourism within the Asian region.

The dramatic growth in budget carriers has made Asia a leader in reviving air travel during the last several years and with the huge populations of India and China at each end of Asia, it seems air travel within Asia continues to increase.

On of the budget carriers, Air Asia, which already has joint ventures in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam and announced this week that it was to penetrate the Philippines market in 2011. The budget carriers also benefit visitors from outside of Asia. Airfare to Southeast Asia costs more, but once there you can fly throughout the region at bargain prices. Plus, prices for food, lodging and entertainment are also low. Thailand is often thought to be a good starting point. From the U.S., flying to Bangkok is usually more affordable than to other Asian destinations, he says.

For example, using, we found flights earlier this year between Los Angeles and the Thai capital for $761 round-trip. Bangkok offers a good base from which to hopscotch through the region aboard budget airlines.

Another development is the rise of “open skies” agreements between various Asian countries. Japan has been particularly aggressive in this area. Japan announced today that it plans to kick off talks for broad 'open skies' pacts with South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia, hoping to further liberalise air travel with them by early 2012.

Open skies agreements allow airlines from countries that sign them more freedom in setting their flight routes and deciding the numbers of passengers and cargo flights Japan has so far signed open skies accords with 10 countries and regions, including the three Asian countries named - but the deals exclude the Narita and Haneda airports, Tokyo's dual gateways.

“The upcoming negotiations will cover Narita but not Haneda as the capacity of Haneda is quite tight,” an official said.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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