PETALING JAYA: From budget airlines to flying taxis and urban drone deliveries — this is AirAsia’s newest venture.
The move, which is expected to take off in about a year, will push the urban transport and delivery support system to new heights, according to its group chief executive Tony Fernandes.
He said they would be using four-seater flying taxis flown by pilots to ferry people and products.
Fernandes said people could book these services using their phones and a pilot will pick them up and send them to their destinations.
“It is being tested right now and it will be commercialised in a year,” he said, adding that these plans were already there before but the Covid-19 pandemic had hastened the project.
He said the low-cost carrier is partnering with the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) and the science, technology and innovation ministry in this joint venture.
“It (drone delivery) may probably be the first in Asia. The aviation industry is currently putting laws in place to facilitate this,” he said during a Facebook live Youth Economic Forum 2021.
Fernandes said AirAsia is getting into the flying taxi business as it has pilots who understand the way to navigate the skies.
He told the forum that AirAsia had often been at the forefront of the development of the digital industry as it was the first to implement online ticket booking and had fully embraced social media.
“I have always wanted to interact directly with passengers so that we can hear their complaints and compliments personally. This way, we can offer better services.”
Fernandes bought AirAsia for RM1 in 2001 before turning it into one of the largest low-cost carriers in the region. However, Covid-19 forced the company to face its toughest challenge after international borders were closed for visitors, crippling the airline industry.
He expressed confidence that local and regional travel will begin later this year followed by global movement as vaccination programmes have begun in all countries.
“Vaccines and vaccine passports will change and open up the travel industry once again.”