AirAsia is expanding its distribution network and will rely on online travel portal Expedia to push sales. The airline plans to start domestic service from Chennai with three or four Airbus A320s from the last quarter of the current year.
Vikram Malhi, country head of Expedia India, said, "As per our joint venture agreement with AirAsia, Expedia will have exclusive online distribution of AirAsia tickets. The availability of AirAsia tickets on any other online portal is temporary and the contract will expire in June 2013."
The development has led to a disquiet amongst other Indian portals, which had partnered the Malaysian airline to sell its inventory on India-Kuala Lumpur and India-Bangkok flights.
"This relationship will also help Expedia, in both the inbound as well as outbound sector, with the airline's Indian arm connecting to the various smaller cities in the country and taking the Indian traveller to many great destinations in and beyond South East Asia, along with the widest hotel availability support across the globe," added Malhi.
AirAsia runs a joint venture portal with Expedia and it is an exclusive online distribution channel for the airline. Last week, AirAsia-Expedia's CEO Kathleen Tan was in Delhi to discuss the development plans and strategies for the portal in India.
Tan, who took over recently, was the commercial head of AirAsia earlier, responsible for its sales and marketing initiatives. She is also credited with launching mega discount offers, which the airline uses from time to time to push sales.
"We have been strengthening our reach and visibility in the Indian market since the brand launch, with 360 degree brand campaigns and have been fairly successful, with over 200 per cent year-on-year growth since 2011,'' said Malhi.
About 85 per cent of AirAsia's global sales take place through its own website. In India, with web penetration being low, airlines rely on offline travel agents and portals. AirAsia's travel trade partners have increased 30 per cent over the past few months, sources said.
In India, the airline made the exception by adding more online partners including MakeMyTrip and Yatra.com. However, now the airline seems to have changed its distribution policy.
For the past few months, MakemyTrip has been offering AirAsia tickets. Even today, the portal was offering the low cost airline's tickets for travel beyond June.
Yatra.com, too, has tied up with the airline but has not begun offering tickets as network integration was incomplete.
AirAsia did not respond to an email questionnaire on the issue. Yatra.com, too, did not respond, while a MakeMyTrip spokesperson said it would not like to comment on airline's internal matters.