The Jakarta Post
The recent case of low-cost carrier AirAsia withdrawing its tickets from an online travel agency (OTA) should be a lesson for any business-to-business partnership to minimize disputes, a marketing expert has said.
AirAsia tickets temporarily disappeared on Traveloka and Tiket.com from Feb. 14 to 17 before reappearing again on Feb. 18, but they again disappeared on March 2 – and without any explanations. The Malaysian airline then withdrew all tickets from Traveloka on March 4.
“Business-wise, this should have not happened, as no one will benefit from it, whether Traveloka, AirAsia or customers,” said digital marketing expert Yuswohady recently, adding that the action negatively affected customer perception.
He said that the case was hopefully just a misunderstanding that could be settled through discussion between the two parties.
AirAsia tickets were still unavailable by Tuesday afternoon on at least three local OTAs: Traveloka, Tiket.com and Pegipegi.com. However, the airline's tickets were still available on another local platform, Nusatrip.
Yuswohady said both AirAsia and Traveloka would suffer potential losses in sales from the incident, as partnerships with OTAs like Traveloka and Tiket.com were intended to be mutually beneficial.
“Basically, the more channels an airline operator uses to sell its tickets, whether online or offline, the wider and stronger its outreach to potential customers will be,” he said. “At the same time, [...] of course it would also be better for [OTAs] to provide more [airline] choices for its customers.”
Offering more airlines, prices and schedules was better for customers, he said, suggesting that transparency and a wide range of options provided a better bargaining position for OTAs.
The reason behind the incident remains a mystery, as Traveloka and AirAsia seem to be playing the blame game. When the tickets first disappeared from Traveloka, the company attributed it to the airline's system upgrade. Tiket.com did not issue a statement.
AirAsia held a press conference on March 4 to explain the situation, while Traveloka stated it would prioritize “sustainable partnerships” with its stakeholders and expressed regret over the incident.
“We have asked for time to hold a dialog with AirAsia to determine the best solution to this problem,” Traveloka public relations director Sufintri Rahayu said in a statement.
AirAsia Indonesia CEO Dendy Kurniawan recently told The Jakarta Post that the company had withdrawn all tickets from Traveloka and had held the March 4 press conference to give customers accurate information and clarification on its decision.
“I guess if we are not giving clear information to the public, is is the customers that continue to be disadvantaged by this issue,” said Dendy.
“If customers use Traveloka, for example, and if we did not hold a press conference, they might think that our tickets are sold out and even more customers would be disadvantaged,” he said.
Some customers have expressed regret over AirAsia’s withdrawal of its tickets from Traveloka.
Frequent flyer Yunita Absary, 26, found it more difficult to search for tickets, as she needed to compare ticket prices and flight schedules on several websites.
"It's just more complicated now. Before, I just needed to browse Traveloka and I got [the complete] list," said Yunita, who flies from Jakarta to Bali and from Surabaya to Bali two to four times a month.
“I still hope AirAsia tickets will be available on Traveloka, as it is more efficient for me,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kediri resident Della Cahaya has followed Dendy's suggestion to customers: go directly to the AirAsia website.
"When AirAsia tickets disappeared from Traveloka, I was pretty confused. But because I was impatient, I went straight to AirAsia’s website to book a ticket,” she said.
Dendy said AirAsia was not worried about removing its tickets from Traveloka, as it was not the only OTA the carrier partnered with.
“The number of visitors to the AirAsia website is increasing. Nowadays, I think customers are also smart about comparing ticket prices. Although they use OTAs to compare one ticket [price] to another, many still browse the airlines' websites afterward,” he said.
Dendy said 65 percent of AirAsia's bookings were made through its website, while the rest came from other sales channels.
He stressed that AirAsia's doors were open to collaboration with any party, including online booking platforms, as long as the prospective partners could fulfill their obligations.
“But so far, we have yet to receive any official statement from Traveloka,” he said.