Long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X is cutting flights to Christchurch in New Zealand as part of the realignment of its network to focus on its core markets.

Four flights between Kuala Lumpur and Christchurch will be suspended from the end of May.

The move follows the carrier withdrawing flights from Europe and India – including a Gatwick service – to “improve operating cost efficiencies” and concentrate capacity in core markets of Australia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea and Iran.

Chief executive Azran Osman-Rani said: “The decision to withdraw from Christchurch was a difficult one, but was made taking into account our strategic focus in consolidating our network on markets where we have built up stable, profitable routes.

“We have, since the suspension of our flights to Europe and India, increased flight frequencies to Tokyo, and opened up a new route to Sydney, Australia. AirAsia X will continue to further expand in its core markets and add frequencies on existing routes.”

He added: “Our Kuala Lumpur-Christchurch route has performed strongly in terms of demand since our launch in April 2011, recording close to 80% loads in 2011.

“However, the Christchurch route has been impacted by the spiralling cost of jet fuel. Since the launch of the route, jet fuel prices have increased in excess of 30%, and are currently still at very high levels. The high cost of fuel has compromised our ability to offer our renowned low fares.”