Popular budget airline Air Asia has confirmed plans to foray into the fintech sector with the launch of a proprietary cryptocurrency called BigCoin.
In an interview with the Nikkei Asian Review, AirAsia founder and chief executive Tony Fernandes underlined the airline’s plan to expand into new markets alongside the launch of BigCoin, a proprietary cryptocurrency that will see its own initial coin offering (ICO). It remains to be seen AirAsia is developing its own blockchain or intends to use an existing blockchain platform for BigCoin.
Based in Malaysia, Air Asia is south-east Asia’s largest budget airline by passenger traffic. The airline will turn its frequent flyer points into BigCoin, Fernandes said, before revealing that ticket prices on the airline’s website will be revealed in BigCoin alongside prices in fiat currencies from this month onwards.
Fernandes, who sees cryptocurrencies as a ‘tool to alleviate currency fluctuation risks from overseas revenue’ forsees BigCoin being accepted by third-party businesses beyond its own operations. Following its launch, customers will be able to use BigCoin to pay for in-flight meals, seat upgrades and other services within 3-6 months, he added.
AirAsia first announced its Fintech program dubbed ‘The Big’ in mid-2017 with the intent to provide banking and financial services and facilitate in-flight purchases for over 60 million annual passengers. Last month, Fernandes revealed plans toward an initial coin offering (ICO) that he expects will curb exchange and settlement risks.
AirAsia joins the likes of Singapore Airlines this year in tapping blockchain technology for frequent flyer programs. Singapore’s national airline notably announced plans to deploy its own private blockchain following a successful proof-of-concept (PoC) with technology partners Microsoft and KPMG earlier in February ahead of the launch of what it calls the ‘world’s first blockchain-based airline loyalty digital wallet’. To be made available to retail customers in by August 2018, the blockchain digital wallet mobile app will enable passengers to spend their air miles as value in point-of-sale transactions at participating retail merchants.