KLM Becomes First Non-Chinese Airline to Accept WeChat Pay

Dutch airline KLM has begun allowing Chinese passengers to use WeChat Pay to buy airfare. It starting doing so quietly on Monday, without advertising the new functionality, or even sending a press release.

And yet, in the last few days, the airline estimated 20 to 30 percent of its Chinese customers used WeChat Pay for their airfare, preferring a payment platform embedded into China"™s top social media site over more traditional options. Chinese consumers use WeChat Pay for many types of purchases, so they didn"™t need to be told about KLM"™s new functionality. They saw it was there, and used it.

"They know how to do that because it"™s part of their lives," Karlijn Vogel-Meijer, who directs KLM"™s social media strategy, said in an interview. "The way the Chinese do business, and the way the Chinese use online and social tools is something we can learn a lot from."

KLM, which announced Thursday it is accepting WeChat Pay, is hoping it may spur demand for flights from Shanghai and Beijing to Amsterdam. It"™s probably a good bet, considering almost one billion people use WeChat"™s messaging tool each month, and roughly 600 million have enabled the payment function, allowing them to buy goods, including airfare, through WeChat.

"If you look at WeChat in general, you see a platform that is completely integrated in the lives of Chinese people," Vogel-Meijer said. "It was very logical for us as an airline to allow customers to pay their most preferred way."

Logical, perhaps. But not common "” at least not yet. KLM says it is the first non-Chinese airline to accept WeChat Pay, though that may change, with the app"™s owner "” Tencent Holdings "” seeking to expand its global reach, especially in Europe and the United States. It wants Chinese tourists to use WeChat abroad as at home, and it"™s locked in a fierce battle for customers with Alibaba, owner of rival payments platform Alipay…

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