AirAsia opens international tech centre in Bengaluru

The low-cost carrier, is transforming itself into a travel technology company through a slew of several initiatives including the launch of a new technology centre in Bengaluru.

“We are aspiring to become a technology company. We have a good partnership with Google. One of them is our migration to Google Cloud. So, we are putting the foundation to become a really good travel technology company and the opening of the Bengaluru centre is one of the testaments to that,” AirAsia Group head for software engineering and technology, Elias Vafiadis told BusinessLine. The airline has similar but relatively smaller technology centres in Malaysia and Singapore.

The collaboration between AirAsia and Google will help the airline to drive better demand forecasting and more targetted marketing; provide a more personalised experience for its customers and improve operational efficiency and reduce risk through predictive maintenance, real-time weather forecasting and better crew management.

The airline's new technology centre will be home to around 35 of the airline's software engineering and technology experts, each tasked to design and create custom-built solutions for the airline and digital businesses.

Easy assistance

Vafiadis said the airline with the use of technology, will help passengers to book tickets with the assistance of the chatbot, generate boarding pass and with facial recognition be able to pass through security seamlessly. “Such a facility is already available in Malaysia and will be made available in other cities as well,” he said. He said this will drive down costs and make the airline more passenger-friendly.

Vafiadis said that the airline group has several verticals like fintech, insurance and with the airline bringing in traffic of the customers, the group will monetise them through these verticals.

Sunil Bhaskaran, the new CEO & MD of AirAsia India, said the aviation industry is going through a challenging time with extremely low airfares affecting the profitability of the airlines. “But the silver lining is that our industry is posting double-digit growth of 14-20 CAGR and this growth is not seen in any other part of the world,” Bhaskaran whose previous job was with Tata Steel as the corporate affairs vice-president.

He also said that low cost or what he called as no-frills airlines will be the mainstay of the Indian airline industry with the number of passengers travelling by these airlines growing to 70 per cent of the total passenger traffic. “Our use of technology will be a big differentiator for us with our cost structure being the lowest.”

Bhaskaran said the airline had filed an application with the DGCA for flying international routes. He, however, refused to comment on a plea by the BJP leader, Subramanian Swamy seeking an interim stay on AirAsia India's application to fly international routes. “We have complied with all the norms and we hope to get the licence soon,” he said.

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