AirAsia Group has announced its interest in setting up a base at Macau Int'l Airport once Air Macau's exclusive use of the airfield as a base expires in November 2020. AirAsia has been looking for a way to tap into the Chinese market after it abandoned plans to establish AirAsia China (Zhengzhou) last year.

"Entering China could be via Macau," the Malaysian low-cost carrier's founder and chief executive Tony Fernandes told the South China Morning Post in an interview. "We do not have to be in mainland China, but being in Macau is like being in China."

In January this year, the Macanese civil aviation authority (Autoridade de Aviação Civil de Macau - AACM) publicly confirmed that the government would not be renewing Air Macau's 25-year exclusivity rights with the airport. The decision, it said, had been based on a 2017 study carried out by an international consultancy firm on the future of Macau's air transport market.

AirAsia Group has long had its eye on the Macanese market. In 2010, it entered into "preliminary talks" with a Macanese firm - later revealed to be Air Macau - over the use of its local Operator's Licence (OL) to set up a Macau-based subsidiary. It had also expressed an interest in acquiring the OL that had belonged to the now-defunct Viva Macau (ZG, Macau Int'l). However, for reasons unknown, both plans petered out.

As it stands, AirAsia Group serves Macau via several of its subsidiaries including AirAsia - from Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur Int'l in Malaysia - Philippines AirAsia - from Cebu, Kalibo, and Manila Ninoy Aquino Int'l in the Philippines - and Thai AirAsia - from Bangkok Don Mueang, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Krabi, Phuket, and Utapao in Thailand.