It’s a known fact that AirAsia has had a goal of becoming ASEAN’s leading super app for quite a while now. During the pandemic and with income from its airline operations stalled, a lot of focus and resources have been poured into growing and improving its digital services.
In SEA, it’s safe to say that Grab has been the leading super app thus far. Its ride-hailing and food delivery services have helped it hold an impressive market share across the region, with the addition of its fintech and package delivery services cementing its place in users’ phones.
But now, as Tony Fernandes makes good on his announcement 6 months ago that AirAsia will go into ride-hailing, airasia Super App brings the gap between it and Grab much closer. This new venture is called airasia ride.
With services already addressing the e-commerce, food delivery, grocery, package delivery, finance needs, and more, airasia ride pretty much completes airasia Super App’s lifestyle ecosystem.
Both Grab and airasia Super App seem to be on a more level playing field now, with a few differences such as Grab offering home services while airasia Super App offers flight booking and management.
Joining the marathon
It’s the second major addition to AirAsia’s menu of services on its super app in the span of one year, after it launched airasia food in Malaysia in November 2020.
Overall, it’s onboarded about 1,500 riders, with another 5,000 additions planned for the next 6 months. Its CEO Lim Chiew Shan told The Edge that they’re actively recruiting, and aim to have a total of 30,000 drivers based on the demand that airasia ride is expecting to generate.
To put concerns to rest, airasia ride guarantees that all of its riders are currently fully-vaccinated.
On the app, the ride-hailing service functions similarly to what you’re familiar with. For example, put in your pick-up location and destination, and the app will find a driver for you.
However, there are a few differences.
airasia ride offers something called “Platinum Drivers”, which are drivers who get recommended to you based on their proximity to your location.
It’s unclear exactly what a Platinum Driver means, since their pricing is the same as booking a regular car for 1-4 passengers. Furthermore, there is no FAQ that provides an explanation.
The biggest difference from simply being matched to a driver is that you get a personal intro to the Platinum Drivers and can pick one that you prefer.
It seems that airasia ride is leveraging another ride-hailing company, Dacsee’s services to offer a feature called Lady Drivers.
These Lady Drivers would be available from Monday to Sunday, though your option of picking one would depend on their proximity to your location as well.
While a nice choice, those who prefer being driven around by a female driver are probably better off picking a service like the women-only ride-hailing company Riding Pink.
This one’s an option that might have you scratching your head a little. With it, you can book a ride in a vehicle driven by an AirAsia pilot or cabin crew.
From the company’s POV, this feature would make sense, seeing as planes are still largely grounded. Since the pandemic started, AirAsia has been actively involving its Allstars in its other verticals, such as airasia farm (previously OURFARM), for example.
It’s no surprise then that airasia ride is another area where Allstars can earn income too. For users, perhaps the novelty of being driven by a pilot or cabin crew would be worth the ride, but it’s hard to see it as being more than just a strategy to get people talking about airasia ride for now.
In the app itself, I was unable to find the option of riding with an Allstar yet. Either the feature hasn’t been fully released, or I’m simply out of the coverage zone so the option doesn’t pop up.
Pricing between 2 super apps
In terms of pricing, there isn’t a huge discrepancy between how airasia ride versus Grab charge users. AirAsia states that the fares are set at an average of RM1 per km excluding toll charges, so at most, you’ll save just a few Ringgit with airasia ride.
For example, a trip from 1Utama to Mid Valley Megamall would cost you RM19 on airasia ride (1-4 seater), and RM20 for a similarly sized JustGrab vehicle. At the moment, we’re unsure if airasia ride will change its pricing depending on peak hours or after-hours.
Similar to how airasia food takes a 15% commission fee per order (as opposed to the 25-30% some companies take), airasia ride takes a 15% cut from driver-partners (as opposed to Grab’s 20% fee).
It definitely seems that AirAsia is trying to position itself as the more affordable super app in Malaysia when it comes to popular services.
It’s hard to comment on a ride-hailing service when you’ve not actually tried it out yourself a few times. One thing that could be said is that airasia ride’s slightly lower fees could be a good incentive, but we’ll have to see if the small pool of drivers will discourage users.
The on-demand convenience is what most ride-hailing users want, and if airasia ride is unable to satisfy that, it’ll be tough convincing the market to try it out.
Ever-ambitious, the airline company already has plans to expand its ride-hailing service outside of Malaysia to Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, and more. Locally, its 2021 roadmap points to its rollout in major Malaysian states first.