AirAsia boss on virtual chatbot AVA: Feedback taken seriously with daily improvements

It has been a year since AirAsia unveiled its virtual chatbot AVA which it also turned into a virtual influencer named Miss AVA earlier this year. Created to respond to guest inquiries instantly, AVA has recently received an overwhelming number of requests for refunds. A quick check by A+M found that netizens on Facebook were not pleased with the lack of response from AVA. 

Acknowledging the comments, AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes explained that the company takes the feedback seriously and is making improvements to the system daily. "Currently, our team and AVA are handling 10 times the normal volume of queries, which is now about half a million guests on a daily basis," he said.

Meanwhile, he also said refunds will be made on a case by case basis and urged consumers to accept credit as an alternative. In a recent statement, Fernandes (pictured) said he knows that many have expressed frustration with not receiving a refund for their flights.

"However, due to the overwhelming number of requests [for refunds] that we have received, it may take a long process of between 12 to 16 weeks," he explained. He added that the policy is in line with many operators in the travel industry, and reflects is focus on coming out the other side of this trying period. According to him, more than 80% of customers accepted AirAsia's credit offer. Airlines such as Dutch airlines KLM and Irish airlines Ryanair have implemented a no-refund policy. Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines is offering refunds and waiving fees on refundable tickets.

Separately, Fernandes added that both him and chairman Kamarudin Menarun will not be drawing a salary during this period. Also, its employees across the business have accepted a temporary pay reduction of between 15% to 75%, depending on seniority, to share the impact COVID-19 is having on its business.

"I thank them for their sacrifice and in keeping the big picture in mind as we navigate this together," he added. Last month, the airline reported that its management and senior employees have volunteered to take a pay cut, to further manage and contain costs for AirAsia. In response to the travel restrictions worldwide, it also temporarily hibernated most of its fleet across the network due to the "extensive and increasing border restrictions imposed by various countries" since the COVID-19 outbreak. All short-haul flights to Malaysia, Philippines, India have been temporarily suspended, while domestic flights to Thailand and Indonesia will continue at a reduced frequency. All medium and long-haul flights to Thailand have also been suspended for three months. 

Meanwhile, AirAsia's in-flight menu brand Santan has launched a Ramadan e-bazaar to support micro, small and independent vendors selling Ramadan delicacies to continue their businesses. Santan also works with a number of delivery partners which cover Klang Valley to ensure that all orders can be enjoyed by everyone in this period of social-distancing.

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