Skift Take

Can a budget carrier like AirAsia also be an aspirational brand, and a hotel and activities booking site? The dual operations — running an airline and an online-travel-agency-like operation — seem like a big stretch. That's especially so when the airline is facing intense pressure from rising fuel costs.

Can a budget carrier like AirAsia, known for attracting travelers seeking the lowest fares, become a lifestyle brand with online-travel-agency-like features?

That’s what AirAsia, a leading low-cost carrier in Southeast Asia, is attempting to do. Spencer Lee, head of commercial for AirAsia Malaysia, said Thursday that the airline intends to officially launch its website in the fourth quarter, furthering those aims.

In addition to offering inspiration in the form of magazine-like content on destinations, and “quick bites” on mooncakes and “funky flavors,” Travel360 will offer hotels from longtime partner Expedia, tours and activities from Vidi, and online shopping where the flyer can choose to buy wine sets or whiskey tumblers delivered at the airport or onboard the flight.

AirAsia customers can also pre-purchase in-flight Wi-Fi and numerous in-flight entertainment options.

In a brief interview after a press briefing he gave at the Pacific Asia Travel Association 2018 travel mart event in Langkawi, Malaysia, Lee, said: “AirAsia wants to use the platform to build community, and to be a one-stop shop for travelers, “all under one roof.”

Lee, who doubles as CEO of the Travel360 e-commerce platform, said the site is geared to answer all needs for the traveler, and will use data to make personalized offers, such as delivering a birthday present on board to a flyer’s spouse or family member.

Travel360 is a work in progress for now as AirAsia is lining up additional content and partners. Lee said the partnership discussions look promising.

Asked when Travel360 would officially launch, Lee said the goal is the fourth quarter, although AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes would like him to roll out the site “today.”

A Transformation Plan

Travel360 is part of the airline’s plan to turn itself into a data and tech company, according to a presentation at the Pacific Asia Travel Association conference. AirAsiaGo offers flight and hotel deals; Vidi is its tours and activities platform; AirAsia Red Tix serves up concert and transportation tickets; Ourshop brings together duty free and duty paid shopping; and BigPay is an e-wallet and credit card for payments.

Many of these features would come together in Travel360, which the airline variously described as “a travel and lifestyle e-zine with booking capabilities,” as well as “a data-driven OTA (online travel agency) that combines Content + Commerce offering comprehensive travel content and deals.”

The Travel360 move comes as the airline is trying to cut costs because of high oil prices.

Fernandes tweeted Thursday that its One AirAsia initiative, which would unify its regional airlines, would enable the carrier to eliminate inefficiencies and take out costs.

The airline CEO also tweeted that during a previous surge in oil prices, the carrier sought to offset the cost pressure by increasing sales of ancillary services. “This time we use volume and data to drive revenue and cut costs,” Fernandes tweeted.

One has to wonder, though, how the cost pressures may impact the rollout of Travel360. Will the airline have the investment commitment to the new e-commerce platform?

And will the airline lose focus on being an airline when it is trying to become a lifestyle brand for its often-cost-conscious customer base?


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Tags: airasia, dining, hotels, otas, tours and activities

Photo credit: The photo is of an AirAsia lounge. The airline is trying to become a lifestyle brand, and a booking site for hotels, and tours and activities. AirAsia

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