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AirAsia’s tech push for safer, cheaper air travel

Agnes Alpuerto / Khmer Times Share:
AirAsia headquarters near Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Selangor, Malaysia. KT/Agnes Alpuerto

Malaysia’s leading low-cost airline, AirAsia, is now pushing for full use of biometric scanners that could boost security for all air travelers, chief executive officer Riad Asmat said.

AirAsia has proposed that every passenger’s biometric identification data will be stored and synchronized with government immigration systems. This, Mr Asmat said, would be the most secure way of identifying individuals and ensuring the safety of passengers aboard AirAsia’s flights.

“A passenger who scans his face with us once does not need to show his itinerary or boarding pass to us anymore. Hewill be recognised immediately by our machines,” Mr Asmat told reporters at a recent briefing held at the airline’s Kuala Lumpur headquarters, AirAsia RedQ.

AirAsia Malaysia CEO Riad Asmat. KT/Agnes Alpuerto

The airline is now working with Malaysian immigration officials on the biometric identification system, which is being implemented at the Johor Bahru airport bordering Singapore. It plans to introduce the system to other airports in Malaysia and beyond, as well as to its affiliate airlines, Mr Asmat said.

“We have to work with authorities to make these things possible because this isn’t just about us, it involves other organisations and officials. These systems have to talk to each other.”

AirAsia’s main goal is to bring air travellers across nations and regions in the cheapest and most convenient way possible. This has fueled the airline’s growing popularity and a tremendous expansion in passenger count.

The airline was among the earliest in the region to develop a website and mobile application that let passengers do anything from looking up new flights to purchasing tickets. It also implemented self check-in and baggage drop-off kiosks in some airports to minimise long queues and staff requirements in check-in counters.

“We sold tickets online from Day 1,” Mr Asmat said. We focused on technology since that point because we know the benefits, we know the cost savings.”

Mr Asmat is quick to note that despite AirAsia’s drive to make air travel more accessible through lower ticket prices, the airline does not skimp on service quality.

“Low-cost fare does not mean low-cost in all other aspects. We don’t discount passenger safety and experience.”

AirAsia is now transforming itself into a digital airline company with initiatives such as the BigPay mobile wallet.

“We are now focusing on how else we can utilise technology to get efficiency, which we can translate to savings for our passengers,” said Mr Asmat.

This comes as AirAsia continues expanding across the Indochina region, with a focus on exploring new destinations within a “still untouched and unexplored” Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos, Mr Asmat said.

Currently, AirAsia flies to seven destinations and 13 routes in these three countries, giving travelers from Indochina and around the world easy access to different cities and provinces within the region.

“One thing we’re very good at is that we explore inner cities. It is what we do best,” he said. In 2019, more places will be added if AirAsia finds the “right destinations and right airports,” Mr Asmat said.

AirAsia flies three times daily from Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumpur, and there are also daily flights from Siem Reap and Sihanoukville airports. The number of Cambodian passengers who flew to Kuala Lumpur through AirAsia in the first 10 months of 2018 rose 43.2 percent compared to the same period last year.

Indochina “is still very much untouched” in terms of possibilities for air travel growth, Mr Asmat said. “But we will definitely be there – exploring and expanding.”

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