AirAsia plans to go fully cashless; stresses on digitisation

Mirza Mohammed Ali Khan Kuala Lumpur | Updated on January 15, 2018 Published on March 19, 2017


Hopes to launch this service by April-May this year

“I think cash is old fashioned,” said AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, as he introduced plans of making all in-flight purchases on AirAsia flights cashless.

From demonetisation to flights, going cashless seems to be the norm. Notably, airlines in the United States started going cashless for in-flight transactions as early as 2009. Even in India, airlines offer customers the option of paying for purchases using cards.

“I would like all our in-flight sales to be electronic,” Fernandes elaborated. “So you can just use your mobile phone to pay for food, WiFi, etc.”

He said that AirAsia hopes to launch this service by April-May and that this exercise is a part of digitising the airline. “All our cabin crew will have a mobile phone. When you go on to an Air Asia plane, they will know you,” he added, giving examples of the digitising that the carrier aims to embrace.

“Transacting in different currencies on international flights can get cumbersome, making it harder for the customer,” Nikunj Shanti, Chief Data Officer, Group Digital, AirAsia, told BusinessLine. “What we are trying to do is make it faster and easier.”

“This could also give us better information in terms of stock control, etc, so that we are stocking the right goods on the plane,” Shanti said. “Right now, it’s all manual. If we get this information digitally, we can apply learning algorithms and classification algorithms and put better products on the plane.”

“This digital revolution is a chance for ASEAN and AirAsia to move up the economic value chain,” Fernandes said, clarifying that he doesn’t think the digitising will lead to loss of jobs. “We are already training our sales agents and guest services to become more knowledge-based. We are already anticipating that.”

Social media platforms

AirAsia is also personalising its website. “That’s step one. By next month, when you log-on, we will know about you, where you flew, etc,” Fernandes said. Purchasing of tickets from social media platforms is another aspect.

“Three per cent of our sales come from Facebook. You can buy tickets from Line, WeChat,” he added.

Hackathon event

Airvolution 2017, a hackathon for participants from across the Asia-Pacific region, was organised by AirAsia at their headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. This was the first such event organised by the carrier, which also tied into its aim of becoming a digital airline.

The event saw participation from 20 teams from Singapore, Australia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Australia and four teams from India.

The 18-hour hackathon involved giving the teams a problem statement on how they will profile AirAsia customers based on their digital social footprints to improve their experience.

Team Avaiato from Singapore won the hackathon, with their showcase on putting together a real-time user profile based on a customer’s Instagram pictures and likes for targeted offers from AirAsia on destinations and food.

Fernandes also said that going forward, more regional events such as the hackathon will be held. “If it is a success, we might do one every week,” he said.

Published on March 19, 2017
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