No more AirAsia tickets for customers of the Malaysian MVNO Tune Talk

It is bon voyage to free AirAsia tickets for customers of the Malaysian MVNO Tune Talk

Subscribers of the Malaysian mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), Tune Talk will not be able to redeem their loyalty points to “free” AirAsia flight tickets effective from August 1st.

Tune Talk has announced that after 12 years, it will no longer offer free AirAsia flight ticket redemptions and they are currently in the midst of streamlining its offering according to Soyacincau.

In a press release, Tune Talk CEO Ameen Amaendran said, “While we bid farewell to the free AirAsia flight ticket benefit, we aim to provide other newer and exciting loyalty benefits and discounts, relevant to the value-seeker segment.” He added that other existing Tune Talk benefits such as Personal Accident insurance coverage and redeemable Tune Talk Points within the app remain intact.

An MVNO leveraging on existing assets for loyalty program and cross-selling

Tune Talk and AirAsia is largely based on Richard Branson’s Virgin Group (Virgin Mobile), where Tune Talk’s founder, Tony Fernandes worked as a Financial controller before establishing Tune Air Sdn. Bhd.

Tune Air took over the Malaysian budget airline, AirAsia and also established Tune Group – which among other services launched the MVNO Tune Talk. In 2008, Celcom Axiata Berhad, the mobile operator hosting the MVNO was invited to invest and took up a 35% stake.

Being part of the Tune Group, the MVNO had the advantage of leveraging on the assets of its sister companies within the Capital A Berhad group, i.e.: AirAsia, Tune Hotels, Tune Money, AirAsia Ride, Tune Protect etc., for loyalty program and cross-selling.

Tune Talks unique selling point was being part of the ecosystem and loyalty program tied with AirAsia and the Tune group, where users would get reward points based on how many Malaysian ringgit they topped up their mobile prepaid account with. The points could then be exchanged into AirAsia tickets.

The MVNO Tune Talk is/was an important part of Tune Groups’ ecosystem.

The MVNO Tune Talk is part of Tune Groups ecosystem

Regional MVNO expansion turned into reseller

Tune group tried to expand its MVNO into a regional play going for the countries where AirAsia had a permit to operate. It launched in Thailand but ran into issues as its local partner didn’t have a MVNO license.

Tune Talk switched to partner with the local Thai MVNO Ikool3G. However, in 2014 iKool announced that it would no longer be distributing SIM cards with the Tune Talk logo. Following a pause, Tune Talk and AirAsia has since then promoted local SIM cards from the Thai mobile network operator TRUE in its inflight magazines to and from Thailand.

Today Tune Talk is a MVNO reseller of tourist SIM cards for the Thai network operator TRUE

Tune Talk is a MVNO reseller of tourist SIM cards for the Thai MNO TRUE

Celcom Digi merger

There is no mentioning of the reason why Tune Talk customers can no longer redeem their points for AirAsia tickets. However it may be the consequence of the telco merger between Celcom and Digi in Malaysia.

When Celcom announced its merger proposal with Telenor’s Digi Com Bhd. in Malaysia, Celcom had included its 35% stake in Tune Talk, as part of its valuation, things got out of tune among the investors.

In October 2021, Padda Gurtaj, East Pacific and Tune Strategic sought a court injunction to stop the sale of Celcom’s 35% stake in Tune Talk as part of the merger. The injunction was granted in March this year.

Changes in the control over Celcom would allow Digi, which was named as a competitor in Tune Talk’s 2008 shareholders’ agreement, to gain an indirect shareholding in the latter. This, the plaintiffs said, went against the shareholders’ agreement.

The deal would also significantly reduce Tune Talk’s total addressable market, of which 50% would be co-owned by the merged CelcomDigi entity. The plaintiffs also sought to seek an injunction against Celcom from amending the terms on which Celcom provides network services to Tune Talk.

Author: Allan Rasmussen
Managing director at Yozzo. Allan is a MVNA/MVNE/MVNO specialist with hands-on experience from more than 60 projects in both competitive and greenfield markets. His expertise includes business case development, execution, launch and growth strategies. Advisor and consultant to mobile network operators, MVNA, MVNE, MVNO, National Regulatory Authorities, Government Agencies, Broadcast Companies, TMT Industry Associations, Innovation and Investment Banks.
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