AirAsia pulls plug on ad to promote cheap fares – here’s why people were outraged

If you’re a Twitter or Facebook regular, you’ve probably seen the “Open for a Surprise” interactive game floating around your social media platforms.

Too obscure for you?

Well it’s basically a large-scale, portrait-oriented photograph with some aspect of it hidden. Once you click the preview thumbnail, the image enlarges to its full-scale.

If you’re on your phone, here’s one such example from Twitter.

Usually reserved for social media users to gush at pictures of cute animals, AirAsia seemed to have tried jumping on the bandwagon but ended up failing spectacularly.

On Wednesday (Sept 26), the airline posted a Facebook advertisement on its official page featuring the cartoon image of a woman with what appears to be an ample cleavage, accompanied by the line “OMG! (tap to see)”.

Twitter/ StickboyBangkok

When users clicked on it to reveal the full image, it showed the woman holding the number “99” on her chest – a reference to the promotional RM99 ($23) fare rate.

Below, a tagline, which had previously been obscured read: “You are not seeing things! 10,000 seats from RM99”.

The ad drew largely negative criticisms from Facebook users, who complained that its distasteful nature was “sexist and discriminatory”.

According to a report by Malaysiakini, Facebook user Jonathan Goh described the ad as “clickbait” and commented: “This is kind of inappropriate from a well-known Malaysian brand. I’m kind of shocked that this was green-lit.”

Another user Jeshua P Kong, commented: “Oh my god, I can’t believe such a famous and supposedly progressive brand made such a primitive ad, really shame on you AirAsia.”

In a report by Free Malaysia Today, others defended the ad, saying it was meant to be light-hearted.

Facebook user D Yuen Chee Meng, said: “Come on.. it’s just a cartoon. Some of you think too much and make things complicated. I don’t find anything wrong.”

Another user, Martin Kuah, said: “So many extremists here. If you cannot accept a joke, better stay in a cave.”

Within two hours, the offensive ad was reportedly taken down and the airline company has since apologised.

“AirAsia is aware of the feedback received towards an advertisement posted on its Facebook page which has since been removed upon thorough review.

“AirAsia would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused by the advertisement,” it said in a statement reported by The Malay Mail Online.