AirAsia, one of Southeast Asia’s most established airline, may be the first in its business to produce its own cryptocurrency. According to its CEO Tony Fernandes, AirAsia’s Big Points Loyalty Program can be “easily transferred to the blockchain”. The $3 billion company claims that a product already existing within its Loyalty Program could already be considered as a digital currency. The Big Loyalty program would enable users to redeem cheap or free flights via the established payment system. Its coins can also be utilized to pay for day-to-day transactions. AirAsia is similarly creating a payment platform that will merge the program and allow customers to utilize the currency.
Fernandes declared that he is seriously looking into the possibility of holding an Initial Coin Offering simply “because it just takes cost out of my system”. He explained, “I’m driven, not by trying to take over the world, but in the first instance, everyone buys in my ICO and I take out a lot of exchange risk, I take out a lot of settlement risk.” His ICO-related plan is aligned with his vision of making AirAsia conduct cashless transactions – a goal that contextually applies to most Southeast Asian residents who work and send remittances from outside their home countries.
The CEO is similarly looking into adding financial services in AirAsia’s portfolio as it is looking to grow its customers to 100 million. Fernandes is also considering to offer loans and insurance to its customers with the goal of assisting entrepreneurs. He believes that the fast-changing world requires everyone to similarly innovate and “think quickly” based on data and the existing “ecosystem”. AirAsia’s pioneering efforts was evident this year when it introduced facial recognition technology to its check-in desk at Johor Bahru’s Senai International Airport. It also initiated e-wallets as well as online shopping in Malaysia.
However, Southeast Asia is still ambivalent towards cryptocurrency. Despite Singapore’s current state as a flourishing ICO hub, neighbouring countries such as Cambodia and Indonesia banned blockchain and cryptocurrency. Governments outside Asia are similarly wary of ICOs. The United States Securities Exchange Commission is still actively investigating companies that are offering ICOs.