Asian Airlines

Airlines in Asia are expecting to churn  a US$7.4 billion profit this year. While regional travel is going strong, the industry is also highly competitive. As a result, some airlines have invested Fintech to improve the online booking experience. examines which airlines.

Airlines constantly try to outdo each other not only in terms of inflight service, but in the online space as well. And more often than not, ease of use and payment on an airline’s website or mobile app can make a significant difference in ticket sales.

So crucial is the online booking experience that Air Asia is waiting approval from Malaysia’s central bank for its upcoming Fintech programme which is expected to launch in the next few months. The programme will act as a platform that will enable banks and financial services to process inflight purchases for over 60 million people on AirAsia flights annually.

We researched the most popular airlines from major economies Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam , PH and Hong Kong to see how they fare in terms of digital design, mobile app efficiency and payment options.

Interestingly, most airlines listed here have incorporated some form of non-bank payment platform, be it from local Fintech startups or global players like PayPal and AliPay. Lower processing fees offered by payment platforms are key for airlines, especially for price-competitive low-cost carriers.


Many airlines are also lacking when it comes to mobile apps, despite their push to go mobile. Slow, cluttered and useless are just some of the words used when it came to using these apps, according to reviews. However, airlines are continuously improving their mobile apps, adding more features or fixing bugs. Here is how they performed, categorized by their country of origin.


Malaysia Airlines

User friendliness – 4/5

Mobile readiness – 3/5

Payment options – 2/5


Flight availability and price options are listed clearly in a layout similar to websites of most other commercial airlines. Prices include airport taxes, so there are no nasty surprises after buying the ticket. Booking options such as choosing seats and meals are also available, but users can choose to skip the option for faster booking.

Malaysia Airlines’ mobileapp is still in a beta stage. So its features are rather basic, but users can check-in online using the app. Users can book hotels through the app with its partner The airline is undergoing a reservation system haul, so more features will be added into the app soon.

Users can only pay for their flights using the three big merchants MasterCard, Visa and American Express. They can also pay via PayPal. Direct debit options using Malaysian banks payment services Maybank2u and CIMB Clicks are temporarily unavailable. Perhaps Malaysians prefer using PayPal, which is also available, as it is a more convenient choice  considering its widespread acceptance.


User-friendliness: 3/5

Mobile readiness: 3/5

Payment options: 5/5


AirAsia’s red and black theme is certainly striking, but there are many distracting ads about their ongoing promotions and deals, all over the website. Like most low-cost carriers, prices are for no-frills options only. Several add-on options, such as checked baggage and insurance, automatically added to the ticket price, during the booking process. Its app behaves in the same manner. Users have to take care that the extra costs would not add on to the final price of the ticket by unchecking the options.

Payment options are aplenty. Customers can pay via credit card with a processing fee of $8, or pay no processing fee with prepaid services like AirAsia BigPay. BigPay provides a quick checkout for customers who have saved credit card details and have bought stored credits before hand. Singapore customers can also use E-NETS, which has a lower processing fee of $4.


Singapore Airlines

User-friendliness: 4/5

Mobile-readiness: 4/5

Payment options: 5/5


Singapore Airlines’ website has its fair share of ads, but they are subtle enough to not distract users too much. In just one click, you can go straight to payment without being prompted for seat or meal selection, simplifying the booking process. At 80MB, its mobile app will take up quite a bit of space, but for its features, such as managing Krisflyer miles, and getting a notification if there are flight changes, make up for it.

Payment wise, Singapore Airlines has plenty of options. From main credit cards, to stored credit MasterPass, UnionPay, Universal Air Travel Network (UATP), a payment service owned by a group of major airlines,


User-friendliness: 4/5

Mobile-readiness: 3/5

Payment options: 2/5


On 25 July, all bookings done on Tiger Airways will be via the Singapore Airlines-owned Scoot. With its bright yellow theme, and pun-filled instructions, Scoot is rather simple and fun to use. Prices are stated visibly so you don’t choose any unwanted seat upgrades by accident. Its features are comprehensive for a mobile app, with a five-step booking flow using Pin-protected auto-save for passenger details, so frequent users can book their tickets quickly. Fare bundles and other add-ons are also placed in a single step on the app.

Unfortunately, Scoot only accepts credit cards when it comes to payment options. We hope there will be more options added, as Scoot has recently added some attractive long-haul destinations such as Athens to their network.


Thai Airways

User-friendliness: 4/5

Mobile-readiness: 1/5

Payment options: 5/5


A rather clean interface on their website, with their signature purple and gold themes throughout. Booking on Thai Airways is a breeze, as there are a variety of payment options, particularly for their Thai customers. Other than the usual credit card options, customers based in Thailand can pay via Direct Debit, over-the- counter at supermarkets like TESCO, Big C, Family Mart and through mobile payment services such as M Pay. Customers can also pay via ATMs with their bank of choice in Thailand. PayPal is also available.

Unfortunately, Thai Airways mobile app needs tremendous work. It gleans most of its functions off the Thai Airways websites, which defeats the purpose of a useful mobile app to begin with.


Garuda Indonesia

User-friendliness: 4/5

Mobile-readiness: 4/5

Payment options: 4/5


Garuda Indonesia has made a remarkable improvement in recent years, putting its chequered safety record and its ban in European airspace. Its logo was refreshed, its uniforms were changed, and more destinations were added. It is now the 10th best airline in the world, according to the World Airline Awards. Its website is one of an international full service airline.

Its simple interface is easy to use, and free sports equipment allowance certainly ranks high among sports lovers. Mobile users get special offers, giving customers an incentive to explore the app. Payment options are plentiful as well. On top of credit cards, it offers AliPay for its Chinese customers who want to pay in Renminbi, and iDEAL for those who want to pay in Euro. Indonesians can pay in rupiah via direct debit services from Indonesian banks Mandiri, BCA, BRI and Bersama.

Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific

User-friendliness: 4/5

Mobile-readiness: 4/5

Payment options: 4/5


Ranked 5th on the top 100 airlines list, Cathay Pacific’s browsing experience matches its high standards. All functions and ads, including flight and accommodation promotions, are listed on their homepage, making viewing easy and all-inclusive. The ticket search function takes precedence on the website.

There is also an option to search for flight and hotel combo deals, which creates value for the online customer. Payment options include credit cards, payment platforms PPS, iDEAL, Sofort, UATP, Union Pay and PayPal. However, some of these platforms are only available for certain countries.Like Garuda, its mobile app offers customers special deals. It also offers one tap to pre-fill with stored travel documents for its registered users, who can easily get their travel document details pre-filled during booking and check-in. While the app is packed with features,

Like Garuda, its mobile app offers customers special deals. It also offers one tap to pre-fill with stored travel documents for its registered users, who can easily get their travel document details pre-filled during booking and check-in. While the app is packed with features, reviews by users are mediocre at best, with a good number of them complaining about it lagging on certain phones.


Vietnam Airlines

User-friendliness: 3/5

Mobile-readiness: 2/5

Payment options: 4/5


Easy to browse and with plenty of vacation packages, it also offers Vietnamese customers many payment options via their local bank as well as through the ATM. For international customers,they can pay using major credit cards but a PayPal option is not available.

Its mobile app lets you input your miles and redeem them for flights. However, reviews have not been kind, as users point out that it is slow to load, with an intermittent online booking function.


The Philippines

Philippine Airlines

User-friendliness: 3/5

Mobile-readiness: 2/5

Payment options: 3/5


Philippine Airlines is not a very popular option in this region, mainly due to its location further east from most holiday destinations. However, it offers some value deals for its flights to the US, first transiting in Manila before going forward. Payment options cover the usual credit cards and PayPal. Alipay and BancNet are. Also available. It does not provide bank transfer payment with Philippine banks, so local customers would have to pay a higher processing fee for credit card and global e-payment services.

App wise, many users report of being unable to enter vital payment information into the app. They also complain of the app’s lag time. It’s no surprise as airline apps tend to be heavy on memory use and hard drive space due to their many features.


Featured image via pixabay