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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

AirAsia PH’s David Viray to now head airline’s branding region-wide

Malaysia – David Viray, who is head of branding of AirAsia for the last 2 years, covering both the airline and the super app in the Philippine market, has been elevated to assume the branding leadership region-wide. Viray, who announced the new appointment on his LinkedIn, is now the head of brand of AirAsia’s airline business in Malaysia and across all of its markets in Asia. 

Viray is a seasoned marketing leader within the AirAsia network, having accumulated almost 9 years of experience in the company. He started as a brand manager in 2014, and moved to several leadership positions in a combination of both region-wide and market-specific capacities 

In his LinkedIn post, he expressed elation on the way he would be starting his ninth year as an ‘Allstar’, the unique moniker of the airline for its employees. He shared that the excitement never fades despite being with the company for quite some time, and goes to thank Rudy Khaw, the airline’s chief brand officer. 

“Challenges keep on coming which helps me constantly feel that there’s always room for growth and possibilities,” he said. 

In November, it was announced that Tony Fernandes, the former Group CEO of AirAsia‘s budget airline, AirAsia X, has relinquished the said position to focus on his group leadership at parent firm Capital A

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Platforms Featured Global

airasia to offer flight subscription ‘SUPER+’ to travellers outside Asia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – airasia Super App’s SUPER+,  its flight subscription offering, is now made available for purchase worldwide, enabling its subscribers to fly further and enjoy more perks across the whole airasia ecosystem.

SUPER+ will be offering two options for subscribers with different destination preferences: the SUPER+ Lite which covers all ASEAN countries, and the SUPER+ Premium which covers all countries operated by airasia including destinations in Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India, Maldives, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Saudi Arabia. 

Both subscription plans include unlimited 10% off for airasia rides and an unlimited 5% discount on all hotels on the airasia Super App.

“For the first time, we are opening up the new SUPER+ for everyone across the globe to buy, even those in the US, Europe and all other regions. For travellers from the West, this SUPER+ product is the best flight and lifestyle subscription for them to fully maximise and obtain the best value to rediscover the beauty of Asia,” said Amanda Woo, CEO of airasia Super App.

She also shared that the initial launch last March gained more than 100,000 subscribers across Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines with over half a million flights already redeemed.

“We are excited to be the only super app platform in the market to bring a product such as SUPER+ to the world and for more to enjoy the airasia way of life with this subscription,” she added.

Meanwhile, Tony Fernandes, CEO of Capital A, also commented, “The SUPER+ subscription captures the beauty of our airasia Super App platform ecosystem, which brings together all of our airlines and travel products and services like hotels, along with our e-commerce offerings such as airasia ride, which is also included as a SUPER+ benefit.”

The airasia Super App has also previously launched the in-app e-wallet feature ‘airasia pocket’, which enables users to reload and make payments for all products and services the app offers.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Project Kavvaii’s Lunetide 6th monthsary celebration includes Santan tie-up

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Project Kavvaii, the VTuber project of airasia, recently celebrated the sixth-monthsary of its Lunetide generation, including a recent tie-up with Santan, the restaurant brand under airasia.

The Lunetide generation of Project Kavvaii consists of talents Airi Gwynevere and Mikazuki Mai, who debuted in April this year.

Fans can buy Santan Lunetide meal bundles, which includes Chicken Bites with Korean Sweet & Spicy Sauce, Sweet Potato Fries and Sirap Bandung. They also come with a Lunetide sticker sheet with illustrations by Gwyn and Mai.

The Santan tie up starts on October 30 to November 30 and will be only available in Malaysia, around the Klang Valley including IOI Mall Puchong, KL East Mall, Kompleks PKNS, NU Sentral, Setia City Mall, Sunway Pyramid and Wisma Tune.

In addition, fans can also get a chance to win Project Kavvaii’s exclusive merchandise collections by simply taking a screenshot of receipt purchases,

The Lunetide milestone celebration also sees the launch of exclusive Lunetide merchandise on airasia Super App’s Travelmall this November. They include enamel pins, acrylic keychains, magic mug, sticker sheet and tote bags.

Project Kavvaii also recently held an online event for its fans, including the launch of a server on the popular game Minecraft.

The celebration comes months after its first-ever talent, Aozora Kurumi, ceased activities on August 7.

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Platforms Featured APAC

Capital A officially launches Muslim-friendly travel and lifestyle platform, IKHLAS

Sepang, Malaysia – Capital A has officially launched IKHLAS, its Muslim-friendly travel and lifestyle platform. The platform promises to offer convenience, affordability and accessibility for Muslims to perform their religious obligations as well as a shariah-compliant lifestyle.

Among the key highlights of IKHLAS’ offerings are the affordable and convenient IKHLAS Umrah packages in partnership with licensed umrah operator Ikhlas Com Travel and Umrah Sdn Bhd. Most importantly, Muslim travellers can now confidently travel with IKHLAS, offering a wide range of value-for-money halal travel packages with extensive destinations across the whole AirAsia network.

“We built the IKHLAS brand at the height of the pandemic. While all businesses struggle to stay afloat, we took the opportunity to re-strategise and made full use of one of the platform’s offering, Sadaqah, to run donation drives and help Muslims in Malaysia and around the globe in their time of need,” explained Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, Capital A Executive Chairman, who came up with the idea of IKHLAS with Group Chief Executive Officer of Capital A, Tony Fernandes.

IKHLAS started business in April 2020 and took the opportunity of the downtime during the pandemic to accelerate its development to be airasia Super App’s full-fledged Muslim-friendly travel and lifestyle platform. Spurred by the resumption of AirAsia X flights to Jeddah and many other interesting destinations, IKHLAS is now able to offer many affordable umrah and other travel packages. 

Other services available on the IKHLAS platform include digital access to faith-based practices such as Qurban and Zakat as well as other Shariah-compliant lifestyle services including Aqiqah, Fidyah and Sadaqah. On top of that, ‘Shop with IKHLAS’ also offers more than 1,000 products such as prayer items, groceries, fashion, books, jewellery and household it no ems.

Chief Executive Officer of IKHLAS, Ikhlas Kamarudin, said, “Within just two short years, we have managed to grow the IKHLAS platform exponentially, which supports the Muslim communities and organisations through a digital ecosystem and transforming the way they perform their Deen.”

Kamarudin added, “Besides the ready-made Umrah packages that we currently offer, we will also be introducing more flexible, do-it-yourself (DIY) Travel and Umrah options, where travellers can customise their trips by selecting their flights, hotels, activities and other add-ons that are curated specifically for Muslims.”

In conjunction with Rabi’ Ul-Awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar and the birth month of the beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), the launch event was graced by a beautiful rendition of ‘Selawat’ by international singer-songwriter, Sandhy Sondoro who hails from Indonesia. The lyrics were written by Datuk Kamarudin and composed by Sandhy himself.

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Main Feature Marketing Southeast Asia

Rebuilding tourism after the pandemic: How the travel industry in PH is crafting its marketing recovery plan

Travel and tourism marketing has taken a different turn due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The major tourism industries have ceased activities in response to travel restrictions, which include the closing of airports, hotels, and travel agencies, as well as restrictions on mass gatherings worldwide, amongst others. This inevitably spills over to consumption behaviour where tourists have drastically shifted their lifestyles, coming to realise the risk and safety of the global health crisis.

Two years after the pandemic outbreak, travel restrictions and quarantines are now being lifted around the world. Many countries have started various marketing and promotional tourism campaigns to support travel recovery. For instance, the tourism marketing agencies of Maldives and Malaysia have recently announced their efforts in boosting inbound travel. Thailand has also launched many travel campaigns this year, like the recent partnership of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Thai AirAsia, jointly promoting travel to Thailand in key ASEAN and South Asian markets by utilising the airline’s increasing regional flight network.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines, the country’s Department of Tourism (DOT) has recently unveiled its new campaign called ‘It’s More Fun for All’, aimed at promoting inclusiveness and accessibility in the tourism sector. Moreover, DOT has launched a special playlist on Spotify, ‘Sounds More Fun in the Philippines’, which is a compilation of specially selected Filipino music that aims to welcome listeners back to the Philippine destinations they love, letting them relive epic travel memories. 

Another interesting campaign from DOT is the ‘ASMR Experience the Philippines‘ project, which seeks to bring people to certain destinations through ASMR videos that explore the natural sounds of a place, allowing one to tune into nature and be fully present in the moment.

As tourism in the Philippines has shown signs of bouncing back now that we are in the new normal, MARKETECH APAC’s The Inner State spoke with Maria Anthonette Velasco-Allones, Tourism Promotions Board Philippines’ (TPB) chief operating officer, and June Allenie Caccam, AirAsia’s head of marketing for the Philippines, to learn more about the marketing and promotional efforts of the travel and tourism industry today in the country.

Marketing and brand strategy of the Philippines’ tourism sector

While the pandemic has given the travel industry some pressing challenges, it also presented unique opportunities. According to Velasco-Allones of TPB, physical events and out-of-home advertising, which were very strong avenues for MICE and business travel promotions in the Philippines, were rendered moot at the height of the pandemic. However, the lockdown became an opportunity for the destinations to recuperate and recover from over-tourism.

At the same time, the Philippines took this time to rebuild a greener and more sustainable tourism industry. This allowed them to revitalise the tourism products they were going to market as soon as borders reopened.

“We increased our support to community-based tourism sites, providing various assistance in terms of enhancing capacities, particularly retooling skills in areas like digital marketing and leveraging the use of social media. Coincidentally, the pandemic made more tourists aware of the carbon footprint they leave when travelling; they now prefer less crowded destinations and those that support local communities,” said Velasco-Allones. 

Meanwhile, for airlines, Caccam listed some of the challenges they faced during the outbreak. This includes questions on safety, the uncertainty of lockdowns, changing intercity travel protocols, and emerging new COVID-19 variants, as well as the expenses to travel due to testing protocols and quarantine requirements.

“Along with the challenges came opportunities because people were forced to learn to adapt to new technologies and be more present online. Most brands fast-tracked their digital pivot to address the changing customer habits,” said Caccam.

In terms of the influence and marketing strategy reorientation in reigniting travel, TPB has developed new avenues to reach its stakeholders in the digital space.

“The pandemic [also] allowed us to strengthen our domestic tourism program. We were able to promote lesser-known destinations, and, through intensive policy implementation on health and safety protocols, we were able to reopen particular destinations and curate more exclusive experiences,” said Velasco-Allones.

For AirAsia, Caccam said they had to go back to the drawing board and identify the new pain points of its customers and the additional steps needed to include in their booking and travel journey. The airline has maximised all its digital assets to push relevant content to alleviate customers’ uncertainty like disseminating information about the different travel requirements and reminding them of the travel protocols a few days before their flight. 

“We also leveraged on ‘collaborative tourism’ and strengthened our partnerships with different stakeholders in the tourism industry such as the Department of Tourism, local tours and restaurants, and hotel and resort partners,” she added.

As the pandemic-related travel restrictions are now being eased, there are factors the tourism sector considers when creating tourism campaigns during the new normal. For TPB, the imperatives in creating tourism campaigns post-pandemic are revisiting the new avenues where the audience consumes content, redirecting its efforts in building travel confidence, and making sure that its tourism products and services are both sustainable and inclusive for this discerning market of travellers. While for AirAsia, the campaigns are now more personalised based on the segment, destination, and travel behaviour.

Future of tourism in the Philippines

Technology in the tourism sector will primarily be adopted in its marketing and business engagement from the point of sale to the collection of feedback, according to TPB.

Velasco-Allones noted, “Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, and the Metaverse are just new platforms by which we intend to engage our current and potential consumers. The unique virtual environments will allow for availment, enjoyment, and sharing of tourism experiences in a broader more visually immersive digital world.”

Meanwhile, Caccam shared, “These technologies such as AR/VR and meta verse are innovative and creative channels that can help brands acquire new customers, provide a wider reach and upsell new products by bringing to their homes the brand experience.”

And now that the Philippines’ borders are open to international tourists, the tourism sector is working continuously on improving the systems to ensure that visitors will have a seamless and still fun experience for the duration of their stay in the country. 

Velasco-Allones said, “One of our approaches is keeping our tourists up-to-date with the latest travel advisories and health requirements for local destinations through digital innovations. The TPB also continues to enhance its digital content development and distribution to make sure we are able to promote the Philippines on all relevant platforms.”

Caccam also shared, “AirAsia is a digital and lifestyle platform for everyone and we aim to be our customer’s everyday app. We are more than just an airline, we are a one-stop-shop for all your travel and lifestyle needs.”

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Platforms Featured Southeast Asia

airasia’s first VTuber, Aozora Kurumi, to cease activities on August 7

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Aozora Kurumi, the first virtual YouTuber (VTuber) under airasias’s VTuber arm Project Kavvaii, is set to retire from her online activities on 7 August this year. It should be recalled that the VTuber just recently came back from a one-month hiatus.

In a statement released by Project Kavvaii, her content within her YouTube channel and social media channels will remain a part of the airasia ecosystem.

“Although this announcement comes so soon after Kurumi’s return from her hiatus, she wishes to spend her remaining month with all of her friends and fans with joy and happy tears. The team respects her decision and expresses its gratitude for her amazing work. We wish her all the best in her future endeavours,” the agency stated.

They have also recognised her achievements during her year-long role as a VTuber for the agency, noting her growth as a content creator and building connections with members of the VTuber community.

Kurumi is the first VTuber under Project Kavvaii, where she first debuted on May 8, 2021. In an interview made by MARKETECH APAC to Rudy Khaw, chief brand officer at airasia, he noted VTubers like Kurumi are just as impactful as normal influencers.

“[There is] the ability to engage with a fan base [or] followers through similar interests and also because it is also so driven by personality, which is the core of what attracts a following,” he stated.

Project Kavvaii first announced auditions in March 2021, and a second wave in November 2021. At the moment, the agency also has its Lunetide generation, consisting of talents Airi Gwynevere and Mikazuki Mai.

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

AirAsia X’s Rafidah Aziz resigns from chairman role 

Sepang, Malaysia – AirAsia X, the medium to long-haul affiliate airline of AirAsia Aviation Group, has announced the resignation of Rafidah Aziz from her leadership position as chairman of AirAsia X.

Aziz was appointed as an independent non-executive director and chairman of the board on 3 March 2011, and was re-designated as a senior independent non-executive chairman upon listing of the company on 10 July 2013. 

Speaking on her resignation, she said, “I will be 79 this year and will have served the term allowed as an Independent Director. I would then need to comply with the change in status from Independent to non independent Board member and the other ensuing requirements. I have therefore decided to resign from my position as chairman of AAX and this will take effect from 1 July.” 

She added, “I feel AAX should appoint new people to the board to take the company forward especially after the restructuring exercise. It has been a very good experience for me, having developed so many friendships with the Allstars at all levels, which I will always cherish.”

Meanwhile, Tony Fernandes, CEO of Capital A and founder of AAX commented, “Tan Sri Rafidah has always been much more than a Chairman. As an incredible trailblazer in so many ways, she was a rock and my backbone during the ups and downs of AirAsia and importantly, a friend and mentor for my own personal life. She was always there to give support and did not hold back in sharing her sharp insights.” 

He added, “While she is retiring, Rafidah will always be very much a part of the AirAsia family and her leadership will continue to inspire all of us. I’m sure we will continue to seek wisdom and guidance from her as we head into our next chapter.”

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Main Feature Marketing Southeast Asia

Top Story: How airasia ride looks to disrupt e-hailing as it marks regional expansion

As airasia ride, AirAsia’s e-hailing service, approaches its first anniversary, it recently revealed news everyone’s been waiting for – its expansion outside its headquarters in Malaysia.

Finally, airasia ride is soon to be available in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand, and the launch is nothing short of pivotal as it meant shaking the competition that continues to be led by pioneers Grab and Gojek in the said markets.

As our Top Story for May, we sat down with Chiew Shan Lim, the regional CEO of airasia ride, who shared with us their vision and plans as the company expands the e-hailing to the region. 

Lim shared they’re not belligerent with the competition, but are eyeing to disrupt the market by filling in the gaps that current players are missing. 

In the conversation, Lim spoke of a common occurrence in ride-hailing today that he believes only puts us back to square one when we used to deal with traditional taxis. 

Usually, during peak hours, prices surge due to the scarcity of drivers, and Lim said this is a disservice to consumers. 

Why does the customer have to be penalised and have to pay more when you don’t have enough drivers. So we do not believe in that

Chiew Shan Lim, Regional CEO, airasia ride

“A driver should be compensated for the extra hour in a jam or the extra distance they need to travel for extra patrol and their time. But you can not [also] simply multiply the price just [because] there aren’t enough drivers [for customers],” Lim added. 

airasia ride is also turning the ecosystem on its head by decentralising the focus on consumers, and equally strengthening the commitment of the platform to drivers as well.

It recently launched the LadiesONLY ride which gives female passengers the option to ride with lady drivers–and vice versa. Lim said that, for drivers, the aim is to reduce the entry barrier for ladies to become a driver on the platform, where female would-be drivers continue to have reservations due to safety reasons. 

Watch the full interview with Chiew Shan Lim who shared with us the e-hailing’s disruptive goals through trailblazing plans for drivers as well as their foresight into each of the markets. Hear him also share his insight as airasia ride finally ends the monopoly of Grab in the Philippines. 

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Marketing Featured Southeast Asia

Of VTubers and influencer marketing: The case of airasia’s Aozora Kurumi

If there is one facet of marketing that is seeing more growth than ever, it would be influencer marketing. The latest data from Statista notes that the market has reached US$13.8b in market size as of 2021, compared to just US$6.5b in 2019. This is all thanks to the rise of the content creator economy, primarily banking on interactions and purchasing powers from their fanbases.

It is no wonder why various forms of influencer marketing have popped up, ranging from real-life influencers like gamers and beauty gurus to virtual ones such as Rozy and Rae. But there is one facet that is considered the middle ground between human and virtual influencers–these so-called virtual YouTubers or ‘VTubers’.

What started out as a niche industry in Japan, VTubing, in general, gained popularity in 2019 as various agencies and brands ramped up in debuting new VTubers into the scene. It is no wonder why global brands such as Crunchyroll, Netflix, MSI, and Suntory have their own VTubers, primarily used to engage with their online fanbase and create new avenues for brands to engage with.

This is the case for the multinational company airasia, which announced the launch of their VTuber project called ‘Project Kavvaii’ in March 2021. Months later, they debuted their first-ever talent Aozora Kurumi in May 2021. Since then, Kurumi has completed over 150 streams and amassed more than 22,000 subscribers and over 1.2 million views on YouTube.

As she recently celebrated her one-year anniversary, MARKETECH APAC’s The Inner State spoke with Rudy Khaw, group chief brand officer at airasia Super App, to learn more about what they have learned dealing with VTubers and how their existence plays out in the influencer marketing scene.

How airasia has worked with influencers in general

Being a multinational company, airasia believes in the importance of representing diversity across their platforms, more specifically in how they tap into influencers to promote their brand. One of those examples was their latest launch of the ‘Red Radio’ in a bid to promote Asian artists on air, and their record label ‘RedRecords’ which has signed artists such as Jannine Weigel and Airliftz.

Khaw found out that with influencers, there wasn’t anything they could really own. It should be noted that there is a difference between a virtual influencer and a VTuber. While a virtual influencer is a computer-generated ‘persona’ that uses AI to shape its personality, a VTuber has a real person behind a digitally-drawn avatar, rigged by a face-tracking software to move the model.

“We also saw some limitations with virtual influencers as it didn’t feel genuine enough for two-way engagement,” he stated.

Khaw was referring to airasia’s previous venture into virtual influencers with the launch of their virtual influencer called Miss AVA. Said influencer was modelled after their chatbot named AirAsia Virtual Allstar (AVA).

He then noted that with their venture to VTubers, they have seen an opportunity to connect with a new online avenue across their followers online.

“When we explored the VTuber space, what we loved most about it is the genuine interaction and community-building opportunity it offers,” he added.

This reflects Project Kavvaii initial vision for their VTuber endeavour, which aligns airasia’s transition from an airline company to a lifestyle brand with the airasia super app, including a focus on the importance of content creators such as VTubers. In addition, the project aims to fast-track airasia’s growth by leveraging its digital capabilities, such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition.

On Aozora Kurumi’s impact as a VTuber and influencer

With Aozora Kurumi officially celebrating her one year anniversary, Khaw stressed out Kurumi’s importance in the online scene, as it allowed them to tap into a new demographic that could potentially be new customers.

“Kurumi’s following has grown healthily over the past few months and it’s definitely created a new set of audience for us. More recently, Kurumi has been exploring pre-recorded content, which is the beginning of more offline content to come,” he stated.

Aside from the typical type of content Kurumi streams such as gaming and karaoke ones, she is also involved in several brand activations for airasia, including a large giveaway stream, done in celebration of airasia’s 20th anniversary.

When asked how is VTubing just as impactful as normal influencers, Khaw said, “[There is] the ability to engage with a fan base [or] followers through similar interests and also because it is also so driven by personality, which is the core of what attracts a following.”

He also stated that while Project Kavvaii is a fairly new initiative that is unlike any of their previous endeavours, Kurumi’s presence brings value to their airasia Super App.

“Project Kavvaii is a part of airasia Super App; the value that Kurumi or the Vtuber space, in general, brings to the Super App is content. It opens up doors for us to explore more content opportunities in the future and develop our ideas to engage consumers beyond the transactional space.”

Brand advice to entities tapping into the VTuber space

When asked about what brands should keep in their mind in launching their own VTubers, Khaw said that they always put the talent first, not the brand, in order to create much more genuine traction for both the brand and the talent from their new audience.

“Don’t go into it like you would with influencers or other typical advertising projects. It’s a different space altogether and it’s really about fostering a community. It’s also important to remember that it’s not always about putting your brand out there from the get-go or all the time. The fan base will gather and latch onto your brand organically, don’t force it,” he stated.

Khaw’s advice mirrors his previous statement upon Kurumi’s debut, where he stated that they foresee the project to be a game-changer in the future of streaming content in the ASEAN region. 

“As a digital company, the constant change in the way people consume online content drives us to explore cross-industry innovations with Project Kavvaii to stay relevant and ahead of trends. We hope to see Aozora Kurumi taking the content world by storm very soon,” he said.

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Platforms Featured ANZ

AirAsia makes available flights from Air New Zealand on super app

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia The list of airlines available on the airasia Super App’s Online Travel Agent (OTA) platform continues to grow as Air New Zealand become the latest airline to authorise the sale of its flights on the region’s growing super app. 

Through this commercial collaboration, Air New Zealand’s flights will be available under the ‘Flights’ section of the airasia Super App, aimed at bringing the authentic Kiwi experience to everyone and connecting travellers to discover over 20 New Zealand destinations such as Auckland, Queenstown, Christchurch and more. With its innovative ideas, onboard products, aeronautical design, brand identity and customer service, Air New Zealand has won numerous awards, most recently crowned the World’s Safest Airline 2022 by AirlineRatings.com.

Amanda Woo, CEO of airasia Super App said, “The airasia Super App is a robust and complete OTA platform which is underpinned by a wealth of data that we have gathered over the past two decades, making it the perfect marketplace for airlines around the world to reach the right target audience. Since our completion as a full-fledged OTA in October last year, we have been observing double digit growth month-on-month for bookings of other airlines through our OTA platform.” 

“We would like to welcome Air New Zealand onto our OTA platform, and we look forward to providing all travellers with the best deals with our airline partners through the airasia Super App,” Woo added.

General Manager Asia of Air New Zealand, Jonathan Zhang, commented “With borders reopening, we are excited to welcome back international travellers onboard Air New Zealand through the airasia Super App platform. We continue to offer wide choices, flexibility and our unique Kiwi experience for our customers to fly comfortably and confidently.”

Aside from Air New Zealand, the airasia Super App OTA platform also includes over 700 other airline partners, such as, Air Canada, Air France, Air Mauritius, BQatar Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Philippine Airlines, amongst others.