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KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia Group Bhd is looking to expand beyond the traditional airline business, and has been building up its travel and lifestyle website and app, financial services and logistics operations.

AirAsia group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said the low-cost carrier (LCC) had been approached by foreign companies interested to partner with the airline and leverage on its huge database of about 100 million passengers annually.

“We are trying to move away from just being an airline, and to start using our traffic to build our platform. We probably have one of the biggest websites in Malaysia if not Asean,” he told New Straits Times during his recent visit to Balai Berita.

Fernandes said AirAsia is currently ranked as the 13th largest airline in the world and within a few years aims to climb into the top 10.

“This achievement is not bad from where we started as a small Malaysian airline. We are number four in Asia after three Chinese carriers,” he said, adding that AirAsia has achieved about RM16 billion from selling its air tickets over the years.

Fernandes aspired to move AirAsia from the familiar - Now Everyone Can Fly - tagline to -Now Everyone Can Travel - by also offering cheap hotels and good travel experiences.

“We see many opportunities to give a balanced service to our consumers via our website,” he added.

Fernandes said the new website would allow people to not only purchase AirAsia tickets but also those of other airlines.

“We are starting with foreign airlines very soon. We can be as competitive as Expedia and Agoda. Our first step is to allow travel to be affordable. For instance, making rail, buses and taxis to be cheaper,” he said.

Fernandes said AirAsia.com might also become a lifestyle portal with the addition of other categories like travel, food and beauty/health contents.

“Eventually my plan is - Now Everyone Can Have a Life’- it is all about inclusivity,” he said.

On the financial services business (BigPay), Fernandes said AirAsia was hopeful to get a lending and remittance licences in the next few weeks from the central bank.

He said it is currently tough for small medium enterprises (SMEs) and young entrepreneurs to get loans for their working capital.

Foreign workers meanwhile, many of whom are AirAsia customers, also have to pay hefty commissions when they send money back to their home countries.

“BigPay is about making it financially inclusive. This also includes insurance. With the data we have, we can ask banks on the financial profile of the customers for a much better deal.

“We have over 500,000 BigPay signed up customers. We plan to take AirAsia’ s value preposition across to financial and lifestyle products, while using content to drive ads and deals as well as partnership,” he said.

The logistics business, Fernandes said, currently represents about 10 per cent of the group’s ancillary revenue and has huge opportunity to expand in future.

“While everyone focuses on passengers, they have forgotten that we have a huge opportunity to build logistics and Southeast Asia is a great place to build it.

“The social e-commerce industry is growing faster than e-hailing. We want to disrupt cargo and logistics to make it inclusive. We are building a brand called Teleport.social to enable social e-commerce,” he said.

Fernandes said AirAsia would like to transform its business through logistics and payments, linking with BigPay for working capital.

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