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Aireen Omar, CEO AirAsia Bhd, Malaysia

About the necessity of a more “hybrid product” for AirAsia customers

AirAsia has gone a long way since its humble beginning at Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur almost 15 years ago. Today, the carrier is a global player in Asia connecting its  main gateways in Bangkok, Denpasar, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Manila with 100 of destinations in Asia and the Pacific area. Connecting flights, premium seats, priority treatment at airports have widen the range of services of the carrier. Aireen Omar, AirAsia Bhd CEO, tells all about why the airline moves that way…

TravelDailyNews : What has changed lately in the behaviour of AirAsia passengers ?

Aireen Omar : Passengers are today definitely more sophisticated and more used to take the plane. Basic needs to buy a ticket and fly are fulfilled those days. But due certainly to the influence of social media,  we have to deal now with more demanding, more knowledgeable crowds. Passengers still want value for money but they also have higher expectations. This is why we added more a-la-carte services to our ground and in-flight products.

TDN : What are the first requests from AirAsia’s guests ?

Aireen Omar : Prices are still a major driver of course in many cases. However, we also see that seemless travel is turning into an integrated part of the travel experience, especially in the case of passengers flying on business purposes. The “Red Carpet” treatment with dedicated check-in facilities, priority boarding and seat assignment are part of the offer. We also develop the possibility to have a luggage directly transfer through our ‘Fly-Thru” in both Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok Don Mueang. For an additional fee due to a more complex luggage procedure, passengers will have not to care anymore about their bags until reaching their final destinations. Check-in by mobile is also part of streamlining the travel experience.  

TDN : Do you see also different requests regarding destinations?

Aireen Omar : I said earlier that passengers are getting more sophisticated and more assertive thanks largely to social media. They dare more to venture to destinations they have never been and not only young generations. So we see a need for more connections from and to secondary cities. For example, we recently launched a flight from Kota Bharu in West Malaysia to Kuching in Sarawak, a route which would have been unconceivable a few years ago. Such as Kuala Lumpu-Bandung, one of our most successful routes ever or the recent route between Miri in Sarawak and Manila…

TDN : Where do you evaluate potential in the region?

Aireen Omar : Surprisingly Kota Bharu in Kelantan carries probably a lot of potential for new routes. It does not look that wealthy when looking at the GDP per capita. But people there save a lot and they generally pay cash when they travel! Miri in East Malaysia with its proximity to oil and gas fields is another area for growth. But Indonesia certainly bears the most potential. I would say that Surabaya and Medan are probably the cities offering the best perspectives to growth. And I think that Tony Fernandes still believes that Japan has a future with us. We had this unfortunate experience but Tony is still looking at opportunities there…

TDN : How do you see the achievement of the AEC (ASEAN Ecoinomic Community) by the end of 2015?

Aireen Omar : We embraced and always welcomed open skies from the early beginning and we proved that the private secoit could lead by taking initiatives to open up air transport to new heights. I expect that less restriction will help seeing new markets emerging, particularly at secondary airports. Visa facilitation will be from utmost importance to support traffic rights liberalization.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.