AirAsia has decided that selling tickets exclusively through its own online system, rather than through a global distribution system (GDS) like a full-service airline, may not be enough for future growth.
Asia's largest no-frills carrier group has now embraced the booking system of Amadeus - a leading GDS player headquartered in Madrid - which will enable the airline to reach new customers via travel agencies.The ground-breaking partnership means Amadeus-subscribing travel agencies, which number more than 102,200, can now book flights on the AirAsia group - including sister airlines Thai AirAsia and Indonesia AirAsia and long-haul affiliate AirAsia X - just as they would for a legacy carrier.
AirAsia is the first low-cost carrier in the Asia-Pacific to get Amadeus's "ticketless access solution" (TAS).
TAS was first launched in Europe with easyJet, one of the region's leading low-cost carriers, and was then implemented with Dutch no-frills carrier Transavia and its sister airline, Transavia France.
David Brett, president for Amadeus Asia-Pacific based in Bangkok, said AirAsia had been successful in growing through online sales. But the airline now recognises it can increase its growth even further by reaching out to new customers through travel agencies.
This is particularly important for AirAsia as it is expanding globally with its long-haul AirAsia X and needs a broader base of international customers, he said.
Mr Brett added that the partnership with AirAsia is also timely as more and more corporate travellers are exploring lower-cost flight options.
"Typically, travellers who book via travel agents represent a higher yield for the airline on each ticket sale, so there is strong potential for AirAsia to increase their revenues," the British executive told the Bangkok Post.
Amadeus's booking system now displays AirAsia's real-time flight content - up to the last seat available - alongside that of other airlines when travel agents search for flights. This eliminates the time previously required to search through other screens, helping agents provide superior customer service.
For the first time, AirAsia can now reach out to travellers - including those in the corporate travel sector - who prefer to book through a travel agency.
Founded in 2001, AirAsia flies more than 130 routes to more than 70 domestic and international destinations, with about 400 flights daily from hubs in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.
Mr Brett said Amadeus expected interest from other budget carriers in Asia-Pacific and globally.