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Air Asia's global aspirations

Interview with Kathleen Tan, Regional Head of Commercial and no. 2 in Air Asia.


How the beginning of Air Asia looked like?
- We bought an airline from the government for two ringgit which is about 50 cents. Of course there was a downside to this. We had to inherit 200 staff, some debts. When Tony Fernandes bought an airline, we had a consultant Conor McCarthy (ex Director of Group Operations of Ryanair). With her advise and a hard work of the team we created Air Asia’s low cost model. We used a low-cost model, people booked far ahead and they put a cash on the table. Traditional airline has to issue tickets, cooperate with travel agents which makes the cost going up, fees going up. We fly to secondary cities which are hungry for cheap flights. The big airlines fly only to the main cities which are congested and have expensive fees.

How important is marketing for an airline like Air Asia?
- Very important, because our model is B2C. (Business to consumer) So we have to connect direct to the consumer, because we do not have other channels to push for sales for us. We cooperate closely with national tourism organizations to promote destinations. We are selling a lifestyle, we are selling dream holidays, we are selling romance.

What do you think the perception of Air Asia is?
- I think people see us as young and different. It’s a family airline offering kids a wide selection of meals and merchandise. Our flight attendants are nice. People see us as fun and a little bit naughty sometimes. We are very much into an online community. We have Facebook followers who might not be our customers yet, but they will be in the future. We treat people differently than most of cheap airlines. No matter if you booked a ticket for 1 dollar or a hundred dollars we want you to feel good from the point you booked the flight, through check-in to landing. We have cheap flights, but it does not mean that we have to treat our passengers cheap.

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