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Monday, October 11, 2004

AirAsia - no more

My wife and kid are coming back tonight. We made the critical decision that they fly to Kedah over the weekend, and come back this Monday.

This meant three crucial things:

1.) My kid skips school today (hope, no teacher reads this :)
2.) He had to complete his preparations for his exams last Friday, since there wouldn't be much time for him to learn over the weekend. A bit worrying, because naturally, he still forgets a lot. Being seven years old, all those things that come naturally to us (money, time, subtraction etc) are still hard to come by for him.
3.) He might be tired on arrival in Kuala Lumpur, has to sleep in the car on the way back from the airport, but would get enough rest to be fit to go to school tomorrow for the tests.

We forgot one thing - Number Three is dependent on one thing out of our control - we booked AirAsia, and this entry, again, is ranting against them and the unreliability of their service. It is really unbelievable - read on!

The flight was booked for 7.50 PM - a great time, since my kid wouldn't go to bed too late. They would arrive at 8.50 PM, and there would be plenty of rest for him.

My wife received a message from them this morning. Imagine - in the morning, announcing a rescheduling for a flight in the evening.

It says: "Urgent! Air Asia Flight Alor Setar - KLIA now retimed to 9.50 PM. Sorry for the inconvenience caused."

What does this mean? That they franatically try to reshuffle flights to cope with their ever-expanding service. Look - they made this announcement 7 hours before the actual flight- 7 Hours !!!

The New Straits Times printed an interview with CEO Tony Fernandes.

One question was:

"Q: What is AirAsia’s focus and near-term strategy?

Tony: Our strategy remains the same. We will continue to offer low fares, develop new routes and add frequencies. We will always be a domestic and regional player. We are not interested in flights longer than three hours"

Let me add to this: Tony, you cannot even cope and keep a 45 minute flight on track. Please don't add new frequencies, but serve better - way better - what you've got already.

Another question:

Q: AirAsia’s biggest draw card has been its cheap fares. What other attractions can AirAsia offer to boost its following?

A: AirAsia’s loyalty is based on low fares.On our attractions: We have one of the best methodologies and one of the easiest ways of buying a seat on our flights. Our Internet (buying of seats through is a huge success. People love the ease of our online booking.We have a first-class cabin crew who are fun, helpful and provide a great service to our guests. We have leather seats, and great food to buy. We have a great network (routes) and huge frequencies to destinations giving more choice.We have super pilots and fantastic engineers and a newly refurbished aircraft. We maintain one of the highest safety standards in the world. All the above for some of the lowest fares in the world.

My comment - thanks Tony - but you don't mention anything about delayed flights, and how you want to cope with those. And reading the letters to the editor in newspapers like The Star or the New Straits Times, there are a lot of related comments.

I loved AirAsia's business model when it came into being in Asia. It developed a new market, tapped new market segments. It didn't serve old markets or competed against established airliners. Its competition are the cars on the road, and it is cheaper to fly AirAsia than to travel by car. At least to some destinations.

It could have been good for the corporate world as well - imagine, when business travel is getting cheaper, people can easily meet, and still keep their projects on budget.

However - all this is gone, gone, gone with great unreliability. I trusted AirAsia, was willing to give my money to them. But my trust is broken. I will relate this stories plenty of time, every time, someone asks me about AirAsia.

This broken trust will stay alive in this weblog. Others will read about it. There is no way that AirAsia will sustain if they continue like this. May be their public listing, which makes them accountable to stakeholders, will help them getting back on track. But would I buy shares if I could? Nope - they don't deliver. They live on their cheap price. But cheap prices are no differentiator longterm.

For the time being, and until I am convinced by plenty of stories that tell me the opposite:

AirAsia ? No more !!


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