With a focus on travel, AirAsia's super app concept builds on existing strengths

AirAsia, one of the world’s largest budget airlines, is on a mission to build a regional super app. While it follows in the footsteps of titans like WeChat in China and Gojek in Southeast Asia, AirAsia could blaze a path for travel and other industries not endemic to the mobile space. Companies looking to expand their mobile business should take lessons from its journey, wherever its final destination may be.

The app is built around the company’s online travel agent (OTA) platform, which sells flights from AirAsia and other airlines, as well as hotel accommodations. In October 2021, AirAsia had more than 700 airline partners, 3,000 destinations, and 300,000 hotels in its super app.

New services feed into the core and tap into existing strengths. These services include:

  • Food delivery. The airline can tap its popular in-flight menu, food suppliers, and kitchen facilities to expand its restaurant delivery service beyond Malaysia and capitalize on the booming opportunity in the region. Food delivery hit $11.9 billion in gross merchandise value (GMV) across Southeast Asia last year, up 183% YoY, per Momentum Works.
  • Ecommerce. AirAsia can also draw on its catalog of duty-free consumer products. Its network of airports, along with its travel and hospitality services, can help sell in-person experiences to app users, all while the company runs sales promotions for these services in tandem with OTA offerings. We estimate that by the end of this year, the six major economies we track in Southeast Asia will generate $45.07 billion in ecommerce sales.
  • Logistics. AirAsia already has the tools for cross-border ecommerce logistics: It has experience in air cargo and owns more than 250 planes, which fly to about 150 destinations worldwide. Drivers and delivery workers onboarded to its super app can also supplement the airline’s logistics capabilities. Asia-Pacific will account for 57% of the growth in ecommerce logistics worldwide between 2020 and 2025, per McKinsey.
  • Ride-hailing. The company could provide a fully integrated, door-to-door travel service, including rides to and from the airport, all within a single app experience. An influx of drivers will also strengthen the airline’s logistics business. In August, AirAsia debuted a ride-hailing service on its home turf, in Kuala Lumpur, though it has yet to roll it out to other cities.
  • Fintech. AirAsia can use its trove of customer data—including passport, credit card, and frequent flyer member information—to support digital wallet and online banking initiatives. Southeast Asia is the world’s fastest-growing region for mobile wallet adoption, according to Boku and Juniper Research. They estimate the number of mobile wallet users in the region will exceed 418 million in the next four years, up 211% from 2020.

Read the full report.

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