On November 15, 2019, AirAsia announced that it partnered with the online booking portal Kiwi.com to allow its website’s visitors to book flights on other, non-AirAsia group airlines.
While it’s certainly an interesting concept, the execution leaves a lot to be desired at this point.
AirAsia Partners with Kiwi.com
In an effort to leverage its brand – and the large number of visitors the AirAsia website gets every month – the company partnered with Kiwi.com to expand the list of destinations to which it sells tickets.
Thanks to that, it is now possible to book flights on all kinds of airlines through the AirAsia website. Essentially, the airline decided to turn its website into an online booking portal of sorts, rather than having it be just a distribution channel for its own flights.
Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO, expressed his excitement about the new partnership:
When we started AirAsia as a low-cost airline back in 2001, I never thought one day we would be selling our competitors… Today, with the help of Kiwi.com, we are reinventing ourselves as more than just an airline, bringing to life our vision for airasia.com to be the region’s one-stop travel shop.
While the concept behind the partnership is certainly intriguing, the usefulness of the partnership is – at this point – questionable.
Good Concept, Poor Execution
Rather than being able to actually book other airlines’ tickets on AirAsia’s website, if you choose a city pair that is not served by the group, you will be redirected to white-labeled “AirAsia version” of Kiwi.com.
Even though there is nothing wrong with that, I think it limits the usefulness of the partnership.
With Kiwi.com often selling “self-connecting” itineraries with “guaranteed” connections, it would have been nice if AirAsia started offering itineraries integrating its network with other airlines’ networks.
It would have been nice if one could book, for example, London – Kuala Lumpur on British Airways connecting to Kuala Lumpur – Osaka on AirAsia X. Instead, the two systems – the AirAsia booking system and the Kiwi.com booking system – are kept completely separate.
Also, the number of non-AirAsia destinations supported is very limited. In other words, it is not possible to search for flights between any two city pairs like you could on Kiwi.com directly. Only about a dozen cities – including London, Auckland, Moscow, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur – are supported at this point.
The idea of turning AirAsia (or any single airline’s website) into a more general online booking portal is, I think, great. After all, if someone comes to AirAsia’s website searching for a flight between a city pair that the group doesn’t serve, AirAsia might as well make some commission selling a “competing” airline’s flight.
However, the potential to do that with AirAsia’s current set-up is very limited due to the limited amount of supported destinations.
Combined with the facts that no itineraries combining AirAsia flights with other airlines’ flights are offered and that when booking on other airlines, the user is essentially redirected to Kiwi.com, I think the new partnership is more confusing than useful at this point.
I hope that will change in the future, though – at least by more (ideally all) destinations becoming supported.