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  • Danielle Keeton-Olsen

AirAsia Considering Its Own Cryptocurrency In Push For Cashless System

AirAsia is floating the idea of an initial coin offering (ICO), making the low-cost airline one of the most established companies in Southeast Asia to enter the crypto market.

AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes told TechCrunch last week that the low-cost airline’s Big Points loyalty program could be “easily transferred to the blockchain,” though he has not yet speculated how much the company aims to raise.

“We have a product that can be a currency in Big Loyalty, [and] we’re building a payment platform so the two can marry quite nicely. We have an ecosystem that enables you to use that currency, there’s no point having a currency that can’t be used,” he added.

If the idea floats, AirAsia would be the first airline to create its own cryptocurrency.

Fernandes, one of Malaysia’s 50 richest people this year with a $745 million net worth, aims to take the company cashless, considering many Southeast Asian residents work outside their home country and move money across borders through remittances. In addition, the company is planning to open new airlines in Myanmar and Vietnam in the future, as well as offer customers small loans, Fernandes told CNBC. An AirAsia representative couldn't be reached in time for comment.

The low-cost airline seems intent to put itself on the cutting edge, introducing facial recognition technology to the check-in desk at Senai International Airport in Johor Bahru this year.

Another prominent airline, Lufthansa, announced a partnership last year with Winding Tree, a startup aiming to use blockchain technology to minimize intermediaries in B2B travel booking. Winding Tree’s ICO last month surpassed its funding goal of $10 million in its first six days.

Southeast Asia has shown mixed feelings toward cryptocurrency. Singapore has emerged as an ICO hub, with $3.3 billion raised among 200 different ICOs last year, according to a study by Funderbeam, an investment portal focused on blockchain. At the same time, several countries including Indonesia and Cambodia have blocked or banned cryptocurrency and blockchain, though investors are still exploring its potential under the radar.

If one of Malaysia's largest companies manages an ICO, it may pave the way for more companies in the country and region to test out blockchain, despite the government's attempts to regulate the industry.

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