SEPANG, March 14 — AirAsia X has commenced its first foray into Central Asia with the launch of its direct flight to Almaty, Kazakhstan today.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke said the new route not only improves connectivity but also fortifies cultural and economic bonds between Kazakhstan and Malaysia.

“The Malaysian Aviation Commission forecasts Malaysia’s air passenger traffic to reach between 93.9 million and 107.1 million passengers this year, reflecting a year-on-year growth of 10-25 per cent,” he said.

Loke said this during the AirAsia X Kuala Lumpur - Almaty send-off ceremony at Terminal 2 Kuala Lumpur International Airport here today.

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He said the new route by AirAsia X underscores the increasing importance of Central Asia, be it in education exchange, tourism or the halal industry, with Malaysia being a partner in the region’s growth trajectory.

“We look forward to more opportunities for trade, tourism, and investment in both countries,” he said.

The ceremony was also attended by Kazakhstan Ambassador to Malaysia, Bulat Sugurbayev, Capital A chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun and AirAsia X chief executive officer Benyamin Ismail.

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Meanwhile, Kamarudin said the new route underscores the airline’s commitment to strengthening economic and diplomatic ties between Malaysia and Kazakhstan.

He said with bilateral trade reaching millions of US dollars, it paves the way for expanded collaboration, particularly in tourism, as Kazakhstan marks its 32nd anniversary of independence.

Sugurbayev said he is looking forward to the positive impact that the aviation industry will bring to both countries.

“Malaysia is one of the top destinations for Kazakhs, as many Kazakh tourists have been to Malaysia over the past 20 years and I am glad that AirAsia will help Kazakhs travel across Malaysia,” he said.

AAX will operate four weekly flights to Almaty, offering more than 95,000 seats annually, with competitive fares starting from RM599 or US$169 all-in one-way. — Bernama