AirAsia Wants to Become a Travel Technology Company

Mar 4, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Asia’s largest low-cost airline is looking to jump-start new technologies aimed at making travel easier.

AirAsia announced Monday morning that it was establishing a venture capital fund designed to support start-ups that can help create a “travel technology ecosystem” in Southeast Asia. The goal, AirAsia’s CEO, Tony Fernandes, said in a statement, is to leverage the airline’s “network, data and regional expertise” in the fields of travel, lifestyle, logistics and financial technology.

It did not specify how much money it would invest in these new areas, but Fernandes — a veritable celebrity in Southeast Asia with 1.3 million Twitter followers — said they’ve already underwritten between $10 million and $12 million.

AirAsia’s leaders said they want to see the airline transformed into a powerful “travel technology company.”

“We really hope that this will help us in transforming just from an airline to more than an airline,” Fernandes said. “We’ll try and build a larger business than just moving people from A to B.”

Fernandes said AirAsia will go beyond selling tickets at a level no other airline has done before. He hinted at new voice and facial recognition technologies, as well as ventures that could help lower costs: predicting maintenance needs, for example, or helping pilots avoid bad weather and, as a result, save fuel.

The deal is being done through a partnership between the airline’s digital venture arm, RedBeat Ventures, and a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, 500 Startups, that has more than 2,200 companies in its portfolio, including messaging and ride-hailing apps.

AirAsia started in 2001 with just two planes, but has grown to a fleet of more than 200 today. It flies to more than 140 cities and now carries more than 90 million passengers a year. Fernandes said that number is expected to hit 100 million in 2019.

As Skift reported earlier this month, the airline’s website has already become a robust digital travel marketplace, offering travelers the ability to make ancillary purchases such as private tours and transfers; hotel bookings through Expedia-powered AirAsiaGo, and lifestyle products (think: bottles of whisky and travel adaptors) delivered on board — in addition to AirAsia flight tickets.

The airline is also investing in technologies that may bolster its existing loyalty program, BIG Loyalty. Eventually, Fernandes said that AirAsia may “tokenize the points.”

It’s too soon to say whether AirAsia’s new business ventures will have much, if any, impact on travelers. (Perhaps, on a future AirAsia flight, you’ll be to board using facial recognition and enjoy inflight messaging through Twilio.) But it will certainly help the airline diversify its balance sheet and maybe stave off the troubles that low-cost carriers are experiencing in Europe, forcing them to scrounge desperately for cash

Feature image by by Marcio Rodrigo Machado/S3studio/Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.