Tony Fernandes: With AirAsia’s BigPay e-wallet, remittances will be democratized​

Malaysian low-cost airline AirAsia is considered as the largest airline in the country by fleet size and destinations—it flies to over 165 destinations in 25 countries. AirAsia has been in operations since 1993, when it was founded by a government-owned conglomerate, but it was only in 2002—a year after Tony Fernandes’s Tune Air Sdn Bhd bought the heavily-indebted airline—that it started producing a profit. Since then, AirAsia has been named the world’s “best low cost carrier” for nine consecutive years, the latest of which was awarded in 2017.

Now, Fernandes and his company are taking on a new challenge: to democratize remittances.

“I think AirAsia is always trying to learn new things, trying on new things,” Fernandes told CoinGeek. “We have a great payment card system called BigPay, and that will be one of the products that will accept a digital token when we do it.”

BigPay is a Bank Negara-approved e-wallet that works hand-in-hand with a prepaid card. It supports peer-to-peer transactions for easier remittances, and offers real exchange rates for users abroad as well as in-app expense tracking. BigPay users also get travel discounts on the AirAsia website, and receive “Big Points” whenever they use BitPay for transactions.

“We can really democratize remittances and allow people to keep most of their hard-earned money you know. You think the people leaving their families for a long time and then having to give a lot of it through a middleman, we got to find better ways,” Fernandes said.”This is a unique opportunity where AirAsia can take, where we democratize flying and trying to use our database and trying to use our ecosystem to make something that’s useful and is a utility. Here we have an opportunity to make it useful.”

AirAsia has yet to support cryptocurrency-based payments, but some airlines, travel agencies as well as private jet charters have already shifted to virtual currencies like Bitcoin Cash as it offers more flexibility and lower fees with shorter transaction time. Fernandes, however, agreed that it’s important for all organizations to adopt to new technologies—in this case, blockchain and cryptocurrency.

“Technology and this whole industrial revolution is about changing, and if you don’t change, you get left behind,” Fernandes said. “It’s a great opportunity, so we want to be on the train, we’re right in the back of the train because we’re not leading, but at least we’re on the train. I should say on the plane.”

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