Tuesday, November 3, 2009

'People' And 'Positive' Behind Airasia's Success, Says Founder

29 October 2009

BEIJING -- The two "P"s -- "People" and "Positive" -- coupled with other factors have contributed to the success of Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes and AirAsia, the low-cost airline founded by him.

"We have great people, very good discipline, been very positive and we operate at lowest cost," said Fernandes in an interview with Bernama in Beijing Wednesday.

AirAsia and AirAsia X were jointly awarded "Best Airline of the Year 2009" and Fernandes received the CAPA (Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation) Legend Award at the CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence presentation ceremony in Beijing Wednesday night.

The CAPA Legend Award (Aviation Hall of Fame) is given to outstanding individuals who bring about a revolutionary change in the aviation industry.

"I think there is always business for us if we are positive. If you are negative, always worry about problems, always complain, then you lost 50 per cent," said Fernandes, who is also AirAsia's group chief executive officer.

"If you encounter problems, don't put your head in the sand. Even if you have to cry, cry for half a day and then bounce back," he said.

At the award presentation, Fernandes was praised for "his drive, creativity, enthusiasm in driving liberalisation of the aviation industry across the region".

AirAsia managed to show growth in the first half of 2009 with even greater growth in the second quarter despite the global financial crisis and the pandemic H1N1 flu which affected many airlines across the world.

The AirAsia group achieved an operating profit of RM288 million in first half 2009, which was five times more than same period of 2008. It also achieved a passenger growth of 24 per cent year-on-year.

"Being an airline that make the most impact for the year, we are one of those which achieved the highest profit performance, and being innovative in developing new routes, I think these contributed to our winning," Fernandes said.

AirAsia set up AirAsia X, a new business model which put low-cost long-haul travel to work.

"No one else had done it before, and a Malaysian company did it," Fernandes said.

"It is a great honour for a Malaysian company to come to Beijing and beat China Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airlines, Singapore Airlines and others. We should be very proud," he said.

"It shows you that Malaysia can be the best," he added.

On AirAsia's performance in the China market, Fernandes said: "The China market is fantastic and I think we just scrapped the surface. There is a lot more development that can be done. We are looking at routes from Kota Kinabalu and Penang to China cities."

"We are now running 193 flights a week in China, we are bringing a lot of tourists to the Malaysian market," he said.

Within just three years, AirAsia has started its Hong Kong, Macao, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Haikou, Guilin and Hangzhou routes while AirAsia X launched its long-haul route from Kuala Lumpur-Tianjin route in February, followed by the Kuala Lumpur-Chengdu route in October.

"We are looking at opening up new routes to four or five more cities, like Wuhan, Ningbo, Xian, Chongqing and probaly another eight to nine routes in next two to three years," Fernandes said.

Asked if Airasia encountered difficulties in operating new routes in China, he said: "No issue at all, the Chinese government has been very supportive, they see it as a win-win situation. As AirAsia brings in more tourists, the local governments always ask us to fly in."

"AirAsia X has been a good surprise too. We carried six million people in China, that is a huge number," he added.

Fernandes said AirAsia X was looking at a few new routes in China, but in next few years the airline would probably focus more in India before coming back to China.

Asked on the possibility of AirAsia collaborating with China's airlines such as its low-cost carrier Spring Air, he said that AirAsia was currently focusing on the Asean market.

"But we can always collaborate with local airlines. We bring a lot of people to the major hubs like Tianjin and Chengdu and we can cooperate with local carriers in the sharing of passengers," he added.

On whether AirAsia considered it a challenge if China's low-cost carriers were to expand overseas, Fernandes said: "The market is huge and I think we mustn't worried about competition, there is big enough market for all of us. I take a very different approach from many other airlines which want to keep the market closed."

Asked if Airasia was considering buying China's home-made aircraft like the C919 from China Commercial Aircraft Corporation in future, Fernandes said the airline had already placed a big order for Airbus aircraft.

"I don't see it happening anytime soon, but for next five to 10 years, some of our aircraft may come from the factory in Tianjin."

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