AirAsia X takes Australians on an African safari

Air Asia to Nairobi Route

You know the image. A huge burning sun laying to rest over a horizon lined by giraffes, elephants and zebras painted in silhouette. The howl of a hyena. Roar of a lion. For many Australians, the intoxicating promise of an African safari seemed like a dream forever out of reach.

Until now.

On 1 July 2024, AirAsia revealed an exciting new route for its AirAsia X subsidiary. Four flights a week from Kuala Lumpur to Nairobi, Kenya. For Australians, there’s a connecting flight from Sydney, Perth or Melbourne, with initial bookings for those keen to fly to this exotic destination starting at $463 (Perth), $618 (Melbourne) and $631 (Sydney).

“I want to tell Australians that there is life after Bali,” CEO of AirAsia X, Benyamin Ismail, told the AU review.

“We’ve never been to Africa, it’s something new. I think we’ve covered most of Asia Pacific and we just started our route to Central Asia with Kazakhstan. Next, we wanted Africa, but why Nairobi? Because it’s the centre of connection for Africa to the world. Accessibility to South-East Asia is currently close to nothing as outside a few pockets of flights, you have to go through Dubai.”

Does Air Asia fly to Africa?

Flights from Kula Lumpur will depart Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 19:00, landing at 23:00 in Nairobi. The flight takes between nine and ten hours. All up a flight from Sydney, including a layover in Kuala Lumpur, should take between 20 and 22 hours.

You can book flights at this initial low price between 1st July 2024 and 14th July 2024, with travel times between 15th November 2024 and 8th October 2025.

But as Ismail suggests, the hope is for further AirAsia growth in the years to come. “We start at four flights a week to test the market, to see if we can drive 160,000 people through (in a year). Then if it’s a ripper, we’ll go up to seven days.”

On AirAsia x flights, the fares are kept low by allowing you to pay for just your seat. Food, pillows, entertainment and creature comforts aren’t included, but you can purchase them if you like. This flexibility allows Australians to spend the minimum to get to a destination. Or the minimum to get the premium experience of a flatbed.

“It’s easy to guarantee lower prices,” Ismail believes, “as Emirates and Qatar are already very expensive. So, as a low-cost carrier we can offer fares 30 to 40-percent cheaper. We want people to be able to spend that money at the destination on tourism. And we get funding support from places like Nairobi tourism, which further helps offset the prices.”

Benyiman Ismail

Safari and a flight in one

While not available at the time of writing, Ismail confirms plans to offer packages in the future that include activities on the ground.

“We’re working with travel agents in Nairobi for on the ground tours and packages, and potentially what we’re going to do is offer those on our site. We’re working with safaris so people can buy those tickets directly through the AirAsia site. As well as car rentals and things like that. We’re in the advanced stages of those discussions. Packages will come first, and the rest later.”

If Ismail’s plans come to full fruition, it won’t just be Sydney, Melbourne and Perth that offer flights, either. The other states are set to be served, too.

“We want to get more Australian connected to these great places in the world. Once we have more of the smaller 321 planes, that will improve. Because the bigger 330 planes we feel are too large for some of the markets like Darwin, Sunshine Coast and Adelaide. Once we have those smaller planes, we want to go to these locations and connect. That’s something we want to do. That’s our goal.”

Get out the khakis then: the AirAsia safari is on!

Chris Stead

For 30-years, Chris Stead has been writing about video games, travel, music, entertainment, technology and sports, as well as publishing books, hosting TV shows and generally being the tallest guy in the crowd.