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AirAsia plans to launch air taxi business by 2022

AirAsia Group, one of Asia’s biggest low-cost airlines, plans to launch a flying taxi service as soon as next year as the company looks to diversify its business amid pandemic-driven headwinds for the global aviation industry, its chief executive said.
“We are doing drones today and AirAsia is not far away from the air-taxi business,” Tony Fernandes, chief executive of AirAsia Group, said during an online discussion as part of Malaysia’s Youth Economic Forum 2021. “We are working on that.”
The Kuala Lumpur-based company is about a year-and-a-half away from launching its air-taxi operations, which will likely be a quadcopter with four seats, he said.
“We have pilots, we understand propulsion, we understand navigating the skies, so we have a team working on that right now,” he said.
Air taxis have captured the interest of both investors and airlines, but the industry is at a nascent stage and it is yet to be seen if they can be mass produced to decarbonise air travel and ease congestion. Technology start-ups and major corporations including Boeing, Hyundai, Airbus, Toyota and Uber are in a race to develop commercially viable air taxis.
AirAsia, which sold its India operation amid pandemic-driven challenges, is diversifying its business. It is set to launch its e-hailing services in April and expects its drone delivery business to take off in 2021.
“You will be able to soon have a drone delivery to your home. I’m hoping by the end of this year,” Fernandes said.
Electric aircraft such as drones could account for 30 per cent of same-day package deliveries by 2040 as network scale dramatically brings down costs, according to LEK Consulting.
Fernandes expects air travel to bounce back as nations across the globe roll out mass inoculation programmes.
“I hope interstate travel will start in the next two to three weeks” within Malaysia, he said. “We are hearing people who have been vaccinated will allowed to fly,” he said.
International borders, he said, are likely to start opening in July or August this year, which bodes well for the aviation industry.