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AirAsia to launch flying taxi, urban drone delivery service in Malaysia

Aviation Updates Philippines – Budget carrier AirAsia Group Bhd. said it plans to launch a flying taxi service and an urban drone delivery service in Malaysia as part of its efforts to diversify its business amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement, which comes just a few months after AirAsia unveiled its new identity as a "comprehensive lifestyle platform" offering over 15 unique products and services in one app, was made by AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes during an online discussion as part of the Youth Economic Forum 2021.

"AirAsia is not far away from air taxis. We're working on that right now," Fernandes said on Saturday.

According to Fernandes, the company's flying taxis will have four seats and will be powered by a quadcopter. He added that the service, which will be made available to customers via the AirAsia super app, is about "a year, a year and a half" away from launching.

Meanwhile, AirAsia's logistics unit Teleport has teamed up with state-backed firm Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Center (MaGIC) to develop an urban drone delivery service, the first of its kind in the country. 

In an Instagram post, Fernandes said the service, which was conceptualized just three weeks ago, already has plans to conduct its first commercial delivery by the end of this year.

Other plans for the future include a ride-hailing service, which is expected to launch next month.

Like many of its peers, the AirAsia Group has not been spared from the effects of the global slump in travel demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The airline recently reported its fifth-straight quarterly loss and is in the process of raising 2.5 billion ringgit (US$613.95 million) from loans and various investors. The airline's Japanese unit AirAsia Japan, which ceased operations last October, began formal bankruptcy proceedings last month.

Despite the airline's woes, however, Fernandes is optimistic that air travel will soon rebound following the rollout of COVID-19 vaccination programs worldwide. He added that he expects interstate travel within Malaysia to start "in the next two to three weeks," and expects international borders to reopen by July or August.

Photo by Laurent Errera

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