AirAsia Move CEO: What It Would Take for the Superapp to IPO

Skift Take

It’s all flights on board as AirAsia Move aims to carve out its own niche in the OTA space. The superapp doesn’t want to be seen playing favorites with its parent airline.

AirAsia Move is serious about an IPO – but first the timing and the business mix needs to be right.

“We ultimately do want to get into an IPO,” Move CEO Nadia Omer told Skift.

“Unlike many startups in the industry, Move is not burning through cash and this allows it to make considerate choices,” she said.

Move is the AirAsia surperapp, and its parent company, Capital A, announced on Wednesday that it plans to list in U.S. public markets through a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC).

For now, Omer is focused on the business. She wants a 70%-30% balance between AirAsia and non-AirAsia segments. And she sees the development of communities as a key differentiator and advantage. With close to 15 million average monthly active users, Move aims to foster engaged and loyal communities of travelers.

“We are looking to position ourselves as a competitive online travel agency (OTA), which provides customers as well as airline partners with more value in what they’re getting from regular OTAs,” Omer said.

Move is also focusing on maximizing revenue per booking by offering competitive rates, bundled services like meals and baggage, and other value-added services, she said.

Capital A CEO Tony Fernandes had talked to Skift last year about focusing on a superapp just for travel.

The brand mandate is clear: to be the preferred travel app in Southeast Asia and differentiate from competitors by offering a diverse range of travel options beyond flights, which currently account for 90% of revenue.

“Hotels is the new growth engine for us. It’s really picking up and we will be adding more features,” Omer said.

Moving Away from AirAsia

Move has also been selling other airlines beyond AirAsia and that’s why it launched a refreshed look of its app icon earlier this week. The new look moves away from AirAsia’s red color.

AirAsia Move’s new look.

“The airline that provides the best value pops up first in terms of the algorithm,” Omer said. “We will soon be announcing some strong partnerships for flights,” she said.

Move’s expansion plans also include evolving its product and service portfolio to meet diverse traveler needs. This expansion encompasses flights, hotels, travel insurance, fintech solutions, duty free shopping and ride-hailing services.

Move also looks to collaborate with other OTAs that have more expertise in hotels, Omer said.

Competitive Edge: Empowering Customers

Where Move would want to compete with other online travel companies would be on providing value to customers, be it for flights or hotels.

“If AirAsia is all about democratizing flying, we are all about empowering. We empower our customers with choices in terms of travel. We also give them the best deals as well as hacks and tips in terms of how to save on travel costs,” Omer said.

The superapp also aims to differentiate itself by offering a rewards program with personalized rates for reward members.

“By offering reduced rates for our members, we plan to incentivize people who have put their faith in us for such a long period of time,” Omer said.

Calling payments a critical part of e-commerce channel, Omer said Move is also developing tailored payment solutions through Big Pay.

Market Expansion and Adaptation

Move also plans to expand its footprint into key markets like China and India.

The strategy involves targeting existing clients, offering loyalty incentives, and capitalizing on inbound traffic by understanding visa schemes and regulatory facilitators.

“There is a huge influx of Chinese and Indian travelers wanting to come into Southeast Asia so that’s the first priority for us, because we understand the region, so our focus will be on travelers coming from these countries to the region and creating better deals for them,” the Move CEO said.

The focus would be on AirAsia travelers as there is a ready database for that, she added. “These markets are huge and even big brands tend to bleed here, we will be taking a phased approach. 2024 will be all about targeting existing fliers and offering loyalty points to make their trips more affordable.”

The visa free regime has also helped facilitate a surge of travelers. “The queues at immigration are testament to how destinations stand to gain from easier visa regimes,” Omer observed.

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