AirAsia boss reveals master plan, including going cashless

Tony Fernandes says the formation of the AirAsia Group will allow for a single company owning 100% of all AirAsia airlines operating in Asean.(Reuters pic)

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia has plans to create its own digital crypto-asset with an initial coin offering (ICO) and to even offer loans to its customers.

These are among the contents of a “great Asean master plan” that AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes has in mind.

He told the CNBC TV channel that the plan included setting up airlines in Myanmar and Vietnam.

CNBC quoted him as saying: “The biggest asset I have is data. We have these customers and we have that ecosystem.”

He said he wanted to use this and remove cash from the AirAsia system.

“So you’ll buy food, you’ll trade with us using our payment system. But we are also bringing out points, and points are really a digital currency — that’s where the ICO comes in.”

He noted that many AirAsia passengers were migrant workers who “use foreign exchange services a lot” to send money home.

Eventually, he told CNBC, the airline should be able to give out small loans to its customers. That, however, would probably come from a partnership and might ultimately get spun off, he added.

Fernandes said: “For us in the airline business, it’s getting rid of cash. It’s making money from (foreign exchange). There’s a huge amount to be made, for us, from (foreign exchange).”

He also said the formation of the AirAsia Group would allow for the possibility of a single company owning 100% of all the AirAsia airlines operating in Asean. He expects this to push up share prices.

“One of the reasons I think our share prices have always been held back a little bit is that we have a complicated structure,” Fernandes told CNBC.

“We’ve done a lot in terms of cleaning it up, but now, with the formation of AirAsia Group, I’ve really got the currency to talk to leaders to try and create a 100%-owned Asean airline.”

Eventually, Fernandes told CNBC, shareholders could “trade their shares up to AirAsia Group”.