Malaysian low-cost carrier (LCC) AirAsia has partnered with leading Indian online travel agents (OTAs) MakeMyTrip.com and Yatra.com to sell AirAsia's tickets for its proposed airline venture (that is due to start later this year) in India. The development was first reported in The Economic Times.
According to the report, the airline has already completed integration with the Yatra portal, which will start the sale of tickets for AirAsia's international flights soon. MMT also has an almost six-month-old partnership with AirAsia for bookings on the international routes and is planning to sell the airline's tickets on Indian routes going forward. Note that the airline also sells tickets directly from its site for the international routes from India.
This, however, raises a big question over the airline's exclusive agreement with Expedia. In March 2011, AirAsia and Expedia had launched a new joint venture company covering the Asia-Pacific region. Under the joint venture agreement, a new company was formed to operate Expedia's brand businesses in India, Japan, Southeast Asia and other East Asian markets, besides focusing on AirAsia's AirAsiaGo and GoRooms businesses. Expedia was also granted sole rights to AirAsia bookings in India.
"As per our contract, we are exclusive and we would like to maintain that exclusivity," Vikram Malhi, general manager, South Asia and Southeast Asia, Expedia, told The Economic Times. However, AirAsia's group CEO Tony Fernandes had earlier mentioned that the airline will pursue every channel of ticket distribution in India. "Expedia will be at the forefront (of ticket sales), but that doesn't preclude us from working with MakeMyTrip and other agencies," he had told the publication.
While the exclusive deal would probably work for other markets, in India, the OTA market is dominated by homegrown majors like MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip, Via, Yatra, and Goibibo.com, and it makes sense for the airline to partner with them.
Interestingly, Goibibo is also awaiting AirAsia's entry into the country, and is planning to start talks with it as soon as AirAsia gets clearances from authorities.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)