Saturday, March 20, 2010

Moncton Flight College and CAE launch multi-crew beta program

16 March 2010

Montreal's flight simulator and training giant CAE Inc. (TSX:CAE) is using the Moncton Flight College to test what the Dieppe school is calling the new way to train pilots.

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Goh Seng Chong/Bloomberg News
After completing a joint pilot training program a the Moncton Flight College and CAE, 12 Malaysian students will become first officers for AirAsia.

Together the firms are announcing the details of CAE's new multi-crew pilot licence beta program today at the Dieppe campus, with executives from both companies and government officials in attendance.

Mel Benson, director of advanced education for the Moncton Flight College, said there are currently 12 cadets from Malaysia who arrived last month to start the program.

"It will be a new way to train pilots," Benson said in an interview.

"This streamlines the process, using a lot more simulation," he said, explaining that currently pilots in the industry go through a fragmented training process.

After their time in Dieppe, the Malaysian students will then transition to CAE SimuFlite in Dallas for Phase 3 intermediate-level instruction and then to CAE's aviation training centre in Toronto for the fourth phase of the 56-week program, which will lead to them becoming A320 first officers for AirAsia.

Premier Shawn Graham will be at the announcement to help Moncton Flight College CEO and principal Mike Doiron and CAE vice-president of civil aviation services Claude Lauzon reveal more details.

"If this goes according to plan, they'll go into a full production mode," Benson said, declining to offer any more specifics of the beta program, which had been in the works for the Dieppe company for just over a year before the deal was inked.

CAE announced last month it had signed a contract with AirAsia to train student cadets for the Malaysian airline in a program designed to International Civil Aviation Organization standards for the multi-crew pilot licence.

The companies say the CAE program is the first application of a multi-crew pilot licence program that will adhere to new performance-based Approved Training Organization certification requirements developed by Transport Canada.

The CAE initiative is meant to provide airlines with pilots who can operate a modern multi-crew, multi-engine, turbine-powered commercial transport aircraft.

CAE is a leading civil and military aerospace simulator and training company that employs more than 6,500 people at 90 sites and training locations in 20 countries. The firm has annual sales that top $1.6 billion.


AirAsia downgraded to 'sell'

15 March 2010

Kuala Lumpur: AirAsia Bhd, Southeast Asia's biggest budget carrier, was downgraded to "sell" from "hold" at Maybank Investment Bank Bhd, which said slower profit growth may prompt write-offs.

The share price estimate for the stock was reduced to RM1.15 from RM1.33, Maybank Investment said in a report Monday.

The shares of the airline dropped 2.3 per cent to RM1.30 at midday close, set for the lowest close since December 9.

Air Asia still awaiting OK for Sydney-KL

15 March 2010

Low-cost carrier Air Asia says it remains committed to starting services between Sydney and Kuala Lumpur on July 1 this year, despite a "frustrating" wait for Malaysian government approval.

Air Asia says everything is in place to make Sydney the Malaysian-based carrier's fourth Australian destination, following Perth, Melbourne and the Gold Coast.

All that is needed was for the Malaysian government to give the green light.

"It all now depends on the Malaysian government's approval. That's all," an Air Asia spokesperson said from Kuala Lumpur on Monday.

"It's frustrating, very, very frustrating.

"There is an immense demand for capacity on that route."

The spokesperson said the airline hoped to get a clear indication of the Malaysian government's intentions in the next six weeks.

Air Asia's long-haul offshoot Air Asia X started flying to Australia in November 2007, when it began services to the Gold Coast.

The Malaysian-based airline added Perth and Melbourne a year later.

Other current destinations include London, Mumbai, Taipei and Tianjin.

The spokesperson said Air Asia had reached agreement with Sydney Airport Corporation Ltd for a daily service between Australia's most populous city and the Malaysian capital.

"Sydney Airport has been fully kept up to date with our plans. They are fully aware of our launch date and what we want to do," the spokesperson said.

"So the moment we get approval, it's a go."

Sydney Airport manager of media and communications Michael Samaras would not comment specifically on dealings with Air Asia, but said the airport had an "active marketing program to attract new services from existing airlines and to attract new airlines to commence flying from Sydney".

"Sydney Airport is a major contributor to Sydney's economy and the arrival of a new airline is always good news for all those people employed in Sydney's tourism, hospitality and related industries," Mr Samaras said in an email on Monday.

Malaysian media reports suggest the government has been slow to move on Air Asia's request for services to Sydney to protect national flag carrier Malaysia Airlines, which is the only operator on the route.

Air Asia was also waiting for government approval to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul.

Qantas Airways Ltd subsidiary Jetstar started flying between Sydney and Kuala Lumpur in September 2007, but withdrew a year later to redeploy aircraft for flights to Japan.

But Jetstar chief executive Bruce Buchanan said on January 6 that the route could be resurrected as it took delivery of new aircraft.

By Jordan Chong

Vietnam Airlines protests AirAsia joint venture

17 March 2010

National carrier Vietnam Airlines has requested the government to prevent Malaysian low-cost airline AirAsia from forming a new budget joint-venture in Vietnam.

According to Vietnam Airlines, AirAsia’s acquisition of a 30 percent stake in local VietJet Air last month was only a move to help the Malaysian company enter the domestic market.

As it is difficult to expand their business to overseas markets, foreign carriers often try to invest in a local carrier, Vietnam Airlines said in a letter to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Although the government has set a 30 percent cap on foreign ownership in a local airline, foreign investors like Jetstar and now AirAsia have taken advantage of the policy to enter the domestic flights segment in Vietnam, which foreign carriers are technically not allowed to do. This trend is bound to harm the local industry, the national carrier said.

VietJet Air, the first private airline to be licensed in Vietnam, said last month the Ministry of Transport has approved its joint venture with AirAsia.

AirAsia said last month that the new budget airline, VietJet AirAsia, will operate both international and domestic flights starting May.

Analysts said AirAsia’s investment in VietJet Air would help the local airline launch its service soon. VietJet Air received its license in 2007 but has delayed its first commercial flight many times since.

Vietjet AirAsia, if finally established, will compete directly with Jetstar Pacific, the first low-cost airline in the country.

Jetstar Pacific has not raised any objection to the co-operation between VietJet and AirAsia.

Qantas Airways Ltd., Australia’s largest airline, holds a 27 percent stake in Jetstar Pacific.

Tune’s UK Venture Crucial for Global Expansion

15 March 2010

To open 15 hotels across London, RM746 million in investment

KUALA LUMPUR, 15th March 2010 – Tune’s plan for 15 hotels in Greater London in the UK by 2017 sets a very positive tone for its global expansion, says Group CEO Mark Lankester.

“The UK and London in particular is a crucial part of our expansion plan, on top of our organic growth in Asia. From London, we already set our eyes on Europe, the Middle East and America. The London profile lends us so much higher credibility and reputation and it plants a flagpole in one of the most visited cities in the world, which will be a springboard for further and more rapid potential partnerships globally,” said Lankester.

Tune recently entered into a strategic partnership with London-based Queensway Group Limited to invest in, develop and operate 15 Tune hotels across Greater London by 2017. The roll out of the RM746 million (£150 million) investment involving around 1,500 hotel rooms will commence with the launch of Tune at 118 Westminster Bridge Road in the 3rd Quarter of 2010.

Queensway Group is a UK-based private investment group owning and operating hospitality assets in the UK, Europe and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Lankester said: “Tune wants to be an important player in London’s hospitality and tourism sectors. We are pleased to be working closely with organisations such as Visit Britain, Visit London, Think London and Visit England, and will market our UK properties vis-à-vis our existing hotels in Malaysia, Bali and the rest of Asia in future. More importantly this strategic partnership signifies the close affiliation between Malaysia and Britain that dates back to hundreds of years.”

Apart from AirAsia which started flying to London-Stansted via its long-haul low-cost affiliate AirAsia X in Feb 2009, Tune’s fray into the UK market could be seen as another breakthrough into the UK by a home-grown Malaysian brand and helps to foster better economic ties between both countries, remarked Lankester.

“London will host the 2012 Olympic Games and Tune opening of its first hotel at Westminster later this year cannot be more timely. We believe our dynamic pricing model will provide a strong call to action that will be hard to ignore. With AirAsia flying daily between Kuala Lumpur and London-Stansted, guests now have greater options to derive really good value for their money via Tune in London,” he added.

Lankester noted that the fast developing economies of Asia have fostered significant increases in travel activity, and this was further catalysed by the increasing popularity of low-cost carrier services like AirAsia, an affiliate company of Tune Tune has leveraged this by embracing the limited service model, passing on savings directly to its guests by eliminating costly, yet underutilised facilities like conference rooms, banquet facilities, swimming pools and gyms.

The upcoming Tune–Westminster, London hotel (see picture) will be located in the heart of London with a host of attractions nearby and just minutes away by tube from the entertainment area of Piccadilly Circus and the shopping district of Oxford Circus. The hotel is 10 metres from Lambeth North Station on the Bakerloo Line of the tube and just 5 minutes walk from the Waterloo Rail besides being a short walk from Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, London Aquarium and a host of museums.

Commenting on the strategic partnership, Queensway Group’s Managing Director Nick Jivraj said: “Queensway Group is extremely excited about partnering with Tune to develop the London hospitality market. Their association with AirAsia and Lotus Racing through the Tune Group provides a unique platform for marketing synergies, and their strong brand and marketing expertise in generating room nights online aligns with trends revealing the internet as the prime channel for travel purchase decisions.”

The UK venture is part of Tune’s target of operating 100 hotels globally by 2015. Towards that end, it has forged strategic partnerships with Apodis Hospitality Group for 20 hotels in India by 2012 while 44 more will be opened across Thailand, China, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Indonesia under a partnership with Evolution Capital PCL, a real estate investment advisory firm listed on the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

With Apodis, 5 hotels are targeted to be operational by December 2010 while the rest are scheduled for opening in stages up to 2012. Initial hotels are likely to be located in and around Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Hyderabad, Indore, Jodhpur, Kochi, Mumbai, Pune, Pipavav, Raipur, Thiruvananthapuram and Tiruchirapally.

Under its partnership with Evolution Capital, 24 of the 44 planned hotels are in development from early 2010 and targeted to be operational by 2012 with staggered roll-out of the subsequent 20 hotels through 2013.

Tune employs a self-service online booking system similar to low-cost carriers. Guests are encouraged to book as far in advance as possible on to enjoy exceptionally low prices with rooms available from as low as RM9.99 onwards per night.

All Tune hotels feature space-efficient, streamlined rooms focusing on high-quality basics: 5-star beds and powerful hot showers. Though minimally priced, the strategically located hotels do provide housekeeping services, electronic keycard access into rooms, extensive CCTV systems, and prohibit access into the main lobby without a keycard past midnight to ensure guests’ security.

Through Tune’s ‘Less Waste, More Earth’ pay-as-you-use system of add-ons for air-conditioning, laundered towels and other energy-consuming facilities and amenities, Tune aims to help guests conserve both their funds as well as the earth’s resources.

Since Tune was first launched in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2007, more than 500,000 guests have stayed in one of its properties, currently totaling 9 hotels located in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, KLIA-LCCT Airport, Penang, Danga Bay, Johor and Kota Damansara, Selangor in Malaysia and Kuta – Bali and Double Six, Legian – Bali in Indonesia.

Bookings can be made online at For real time updates on Tune’s latest promotions and queries, follow Tune on Twitter (@tunehotels) and join our Facebook Group.

AirAsia chief aims to prove doubters wrong with F1 debut

14 March 2010

KUALA LUMPUR- When Malaysian aviation tycoon Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes came from nowhere to launch budget carrier AirAsia with just two planes in 2001, the industry heavyweights laughed at him.

A decade later and AirAsia is the region’s fourth-biggest carrier with 25 million passengers a year, but Fernandes is once more the target of sniggers — this time for his high-stakes foray into Formula One.

“The similarities with Formula One are amazing,” said Fernandes as his Lotus Racing prepared for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, the scene of the historic marque’s return to the sport after a 16-year absence.

“In AirAsia we were starting a brand new thing that no one had ever done before, a low-cost carrier.

“We were up against some very established people. So the same way that Ferrari is laughing at us, Malaysian Airlines laughed at us and Singapore Airlines laughed at us.

“It’s good when people laugh at you because they don’t take you seriously,” he added, shrugging off Ferrari’s jibes about the four rookie teams hitting the grid this year.

It’s easy to see how industry figures could have underestimated Fernandes, an engaging character with few pretentions, who works from an ordinary desk on the edge of a vast open-plan office at AirAsia’s terminal outside Kuala Lumpur.

Above him are hung dozens of baseball caps which have become his trademark since he bounced onto the region’s business scene after an apprenticeship with Richard Branson’s Virgin empire.

Fernandes has built AirAsia into a formidable business with 92 planes which has thrived despite oil spikes and intense competition and which he says could be the region’s biggest carrier by passenger load by 2013-14.

In the tradition of budget airlines, including industry pioneer Freddie Laker who took on British aviation in the 1970s, AirAsia has had to battle governments and regulators for routes and facilities.

From its cavernous terminal outside Kuala Lumpur, which despite recent extensions is again exceeding capacity, it now reaches some 60 destinations, and another eight long-haul routes with sister carrier AirAsia X.

Fernandes’ F1 journey has only just begun, but he said Lotus had “already accomplished more than anyone could have dreamt” by constructing a car from scratch just five months after winning its franchise in September.

For the inaugural season, he will be happy if the cars — decked out in the marque’s classic green and yellow — finish every race. But before long he will have his eye on the winner’s trophy.

“I don’t go into something to come second,” he said.

“The honeymoon period ends very soon. You build a car, you get the glory for going there, after that people want results.

“But we rely on the fact that we’ve done it in the airline business, and that I think we can do it again.”

For a lifelong “petrolhead” who caught the Formula One bug as a child at Brands Hatch, the launch of the Malaysian Grand Prix in 1999 was a huge moment.

“When I first heard a Formula One engine in Malaysia it was very emotional for me, I actually cried because you never dreamt of hearing a Formula One engine in your own country,” he said.

Apart from success on the track and recouping the investment, the underlying goal for Lotus Racing is to create a spot on the international sporting stage for Malaysia, where the team is funded in a public-private partnership.

“When Formula One comes to Malaysia, everyone’s wearing a Ferrari shirt. If we really want to change the psyche of this country, we’ve got to create our own winners,” Fernandes said.

He still retains a boyish excitement over his success in the high-profile worlds of aviation and elite sports, saying that finding himself the owner of a Formula One team was “bizarre”.

“It still hasn’t hit me. It’s like AirAsia, we started it with two planes and then suddenly one night you come back and you see 40 aircraft, and packed terminals and you think — wow, you contributed to this.”


AirAsia celebrates anniversary of London route

12 March 2010

AirAsia reports strong demand on London to Kuala Lumpur route one year after launch

This time last year AirAsia, Asia’s leading low cost airline, made headlines by launching a long-haul, low-cost service between London and Malaysia in the midst of a recession. One year on and the airline is today celebrating the success of the route, which has consistently achieved higher than 80% load factor and carried over 221,000 passengers so far.

Spurred on by tighter purse strings, Brits have been enjoying the low fares on AirAsia’s long haul route between Stansted and Kuala Lumpur, which are typically 40 per cent cheaper than most full service carriers.

The route out of Stansted has cemented Kuala Lumpur as a regional hub for Asia, with a strong trend of passengers connecting to AirAsia’s comprehensive route network. The top five destinations Brits are heading to with AirAsia are Bali , Bangkok , Phuket , Hong Kong and Singapore from as low as £5 and many more are flying on to Australia for as little as £30 one-way during promotional periods.

Unprecedented demand for the route will see the frequency of flights increase from seven times to nine times per week for its peak periods in summer 2010 – July, August and September and winter 2010 - December and January. Other developments include the introduction of lie flat seats in AirAsia’s premium cabin - a world first for a budget airline.

AirAsia X CEO, Azran Osman-Rani, said: “AirAsia has once again proved those who said it couldn’t be done wrong. We have seen surging demand on the London to Kuala Lumpur route despite 2009 being one the toughest years for the aviation industry. Consumers are switching on to the fact that they can take the holiday of their dreams in exotic destinations across South East Asia and Australia for much less than ever before.”

“We have noticed a strong trend in passengers connecting to multiple destinations in our route network via the Kuala Lumpur hub. Its part of a new trend in multi-destination holidays where Brits want to see as much as they can in that part of the world in the short space of time they have. For example, guests are starting at the bustling Kuala Lumpur for shopping, then on to a relaxing beach holiday in Phuket and finishing up in Angkor Wat (Seam Reap) for adventure activities. The kangaroo routes to Gold Coast, Perth, and Melbourne have also proved extremely popular.” added Azran.

AirAsia saw an incredible response from the British public a year ago when it launched its London – KL route, with the promotional fares it offered from as low as £99. Over 12,000 seats were sold out within the first 12 hours of the flights going on sale.

Last year was not the first time AirAsia has beaten the odds. Tony Fernandes, Group CEO of AirAsia, originally bought the airline for a token 25p from the Malaysian government back in 2001, taking on around £4m of its debt. The airline came with two old Boeing 737s, four routes and was losing about £500,000 a month. Even the collapse of the twin towers in 2001, which created a slow down in global air travel, did not deter the trail blazing airline. Now AirAsia has a fleet of 91 aircraft, over 130 routes, and has carried from 200,000 guests to over 85 million guests within a short span of 8 years.

Speaking about AirAsia’s boost to Stansted Airport, Nick Barton, London Stansted's Commercial & Development Director, said: "As we anticipated, the Stansted-Kuala Lumpur service has proved to be extremely popular with passengers, both in the UK and across Asia. They have helped revolutionise long-haul travel and we are very proud to have them with us here at Stansted.

"AirAsia is a multi-award winning airline with a superb reputation for service excellent and value for money, and with very ambitious growth plans for the future. We look forward to working with them for many years to come as they develop their services here at Stansted."

AirAsia has won a string of industry awards including Skytrax 2009 “World’s Best Low Cost Airline”, “Airline of The Year 2009” by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) and “Best Newcomer” at the 2008 Budgie World Low-Cost Airline Awards.

To date, AirAsia via its long haul affiliate AirAsia X offers international flights to Gold Coast, Perth and Melbourne in Australia, Hangzhou (Shanghai), Tianjin (Beijing), Taipei (Taiwan), Chengdu in China, Mumbai and Delhi in India covering destinations which are more than four hours in flight duration from Kuala Lumpur. The international network complements the AirAsia domestic network of over 130 routes throughout ASEAN, China, India and Bangladesh. Via AirAsia’s 9 major hubs in Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Kota Kinabalu; Malaysia, Bangkok and Phuket; Thailand and Jakarta, Bandung, Bali and Surabaya; Indonesia, passengers can enjoy unparalleled access to destinations throughout Asia.


Malaysian carrier Air Asia’s Indian ops set to take wings

12 March 2010

Chennai: The Malaysia-headquartered low-cost, no-frills air carrier Air Asia has set its eyes on the Indian aviation market in a big way. Buoyed by an encouraging response from Indian travellers over a period of time, Air Asia has decided to enlarge its operations in India by linking major cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad in a few months.

With an unique online selling proposition coupled with its attractive price package, the company believes it can make sharp inroads into the Indian aviation market. With an average load factor of over 80% from its four existing destinationals in India such as Trichy, Kolkata, Kochi and Trivandrum to Kuala Lumpur and other Malaysian destiantions through its seamless connecting flights, Air Asia is fast gearing to up to cash in on the ever-increasing India-Malaysia two-way traffic with additional flights from across all the major destinations, said Kathleen Tan, regional head, commercial, Air Asia.

Addressing the press here on Thursday to unveil the airline’s Indian strategy, she said, “We will be soon connecting all the major destinations in India with that of all Malaysian cities apart from providing connectivity to Bangkok. The number of flights a week is expected to touch 160 against 70 a week, including 12 flights a week to Bangkok.” To start with, Air Asia will come out with a one-way attractive ticket offer of Rs 3,489 between Chennai and Penang in Malaysia, which will begin in the last week of April.

Air Asia’s fares are significantly lower than those of other operators in India. The airline targets guests who will do without the frills of meals, frequent flyer miles or airport lounges in exchange for fares upto 80% lower than those currently offered with equivalent convenience.

“Instead of offering complementary meals or drinks, Air Asia introduced hot meals, a range of delicious snacks and drinks at an affordable price,” she added.


Q&A with Lotus Racing's Tony Fernandes

12 March 2010

The following is a transcript of an interview with Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, Team Principal for Lotus Racing, conducted at the KLIA in Sepang, prior to his departure for Bahrain GP.

Q: What are your hopes and aspirations for Lotus Racing?

A: Tomorrow, 13 March 2010, will be 6 months exactly since Lotus Racing got a slot in the F1. We’ve got 3 great drivers. I think the proudest thing is that even the Americans (USF1) didn’t get to the grid despite starting 3 months before us. It’s a great day for Malaysia that we can actually be on the grid and in a few hours the first practice will start.

For Kamarudin (Dato’ Sri Kamarudin Meranun, Deputy Team Principal) and me, the last 8 years have been non-stop excitement in building AirAsia. But Lotus Racing is something else; to be up there on Saturday qualifying with the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and Red Bull – teams that have been around for a long time. It’s fantastic to be able to have the Malaysian flag on the car and hopefully one day the Malaysian national anthem “Negaraku” will be played at the race. We hope all Malaysians are proud of this.

Q: What expectations do you have for your drivers?

A: I think the fact that we got 2 great drivers is a testament to the team itself. Heikki Kovalainen was in McLaren which has been world champion many times. For him to know that this year he will be at the back shows his belief in our ability to grow and hopefully he’ll get up there and compete with the front guys in the not too distant future. We have 2 great drivers but we obviously have to rely on a good machine as well. They sent me email yesterday and they are both very confident about getting the best out of the car.

Q: How do you think Michael Schumacher will perform?

A: It’s great for Schumacher to be back in F1. It also shows that our timing was perfect. It’s going to be great for Malaysia; the amount of branding that Malaysia got over the last 6 months has been fantastic for 1Malaysia. It really brings us together as well and it really fits in with the 1Malaysia concept. For us it’s good for Malaysia because there’s going to be a lot of interest in F1.

Q: What are your expectations in Bahrain?

A: An F1 car has a lot of moving parts in it and Bahrain is a hard race to start. It’s very hot, dry and there is sand; so it’s a baptism of fire for us. But hey you got to start somewhere so let’s hope that we finish the race. The great thing is that anything can happen.

For me personally if we can finish the race that will be great. Everything above that will be a bonus, whether we come last, second last or third last. But the important thing is we are on the grid. No Malaysians should be looking at where we come because no Asian country has done it with the exception of Japan and India, especially when you look at the size of our country. The key is to finish the race. Just like AirAsia, you start small and slowly build it.

Q: Tell us about your Cosworth engine.

From left – Sepang International Circuit CEO Razlan Razali, Lotus Racing Deputy Team Principal Dato’ Kamarudin Meranun, Lotus Racing Team Principal Dato’ Sri Tony Fernandes, Lotus Racing Deputy Team Principal SM Nasarudin SM Nasimuddin onboard the aircraft from Kuala Lumpur to Bahrain on Friday.
From left – Sepang International Circuit CEO Razlan Razali, Lotus Racing Deputy Team Principal Dato’ Kamarudin Meranun, Lotus Racing Team Principal Dato’ Sri Tony Fernandes, Lotus Racing Deputy Team Principal SM Nasarudin SM Nasimuddin onboard the aircraft from Kuala Lumpur to Bahrain on Friday.

A: We are happy with the engine. Again there was a lot of concern about the engine initially. It’s a new engine. All the teams that are using Cosworth are very happy with the engine. It has given good power and good reliability. We are using Cosworth because they offer us a good deal at the time and there were already other teams using it. And Lotus has always been linked with Cosworth. The famous Lotus cars were Coswoth-powered.

Q: How important is the Malaysian race for Lotus Racing.

A: The Malaysian race is very important to us. It’s our homecoming. We haven’t had the chance to bring the car home to Malaysia yet as we only have 2 chassis and no show car. The Malaysian race is the most important in the season for us. We want the whole of Malaysia to see the car and feel part of it.

Q: Petronas will be doing something in KLCC. Do you have any such plans?

A: We’ll be doing something in the Pavilion Kuala Lumpur when the cars are here end of this month. Since we do not have a show car, we’ll put one up on the other teams as you’re going to be seeing the real car. This is the car that we will be racing in in Sepang. Other teams will bring show cars but ours is going to be the real car.

Q: Do you see Fairuz Fauzy a role model for young Malaysians?

A: I have known Fairuz for a long time but we obviously got to know him much better in the last 6 months. He’s a fantastic role model. He’s actually a role model for me – he’s so calm, very determined and I think he is a fantastic role model for all Malaysians. He’s been very professional, very positive, never let anything knock him down and I hope we can make his dream (to drive in the race) come true soon.

He is going to be the first driver to test the Lotus T127 in Bahrain, taking out the car for the first practice. He was also the first guy to drive the T127 in Jerez. The car was not fitted with power steering then but he drove 72 laps without power steering to get his super licence. He did a fantastic job; he never complained. He is very positive and he did some good times. He kept the car on the track and he’s a fantastic guy; a fantastic asset to the team. The 3 of them – Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovalainen and Fairuz – get on so well. They are really working and helping each other and having some fun.

Q: Can you confirm if Fairuz will be driving during Friday practice in Malaysia?

A: Yes he is driving today in Bahrain and he will drive during Friday practice in Malaysia.

Q: How about sponsorships?

A: The good thing about sponsor source is that although they know you will be driving from the back, we are getting more publicity than even Ferrari. It’s probably what we’ve been good at – getting good PR and good mileage. We are getting a lot of response from sponsors, also because of the coverage we are getting. Also, Lotus is fantastic name. And I suppose the battle with Richard Branson will guarantee some coverage – yes, it is still on, there’s no going back.

Q: Why are you using Tune Group on the car instead of AirAsia brand?

A: AirAsia is already well established. And we already have a contract with AT&T Williams F1 Team. I don’t think AirAsia will be on a Lotus car anyway. AirAsia has reached a certain level but Tune Group is now up and coming. Tune is opening 15 hotels in London. Tune Money and Tune Talk are growing rapidly too.

Q: When will your merchandise be on sale?

A: We’ll start selling merchandise in Bahrain. It will be available in Malaysia in the next few weeks. We hope the Sepang circuit will be crowded with people who for the first time are going to wear something Malaysian and not an MU or Ferrari shirt.

Q: It’s all system go for the team but do you have any last-minute worries?

A: There are so many worries but we are just going to take it in our stride and enjoy the moment. There are so many things that can go wrong but let’s just enjoy the moment. A great day for Malaysia and who would have believed it! You’ve seen the problems with the other teams but we are there. Let’s motivate the youngsters that they can be world champions and be as good as the rest of the world. That’s what we are hoping. It’s great we are going to Bahrain and it’s going to be a great day.


Lotus F1 racing for pride in maiden season: Fernandes

12 March 2010

Giving a final look back.... Leaving today (left to right) Darren Choy,Tony Fernandes, Datuk Kamarudin Meranum( Deputy Team Principal) and Razlan Razali(CEO Sepang F1 circuit) for the season's first race in the middle east. - Picture by Choo Choy May

SEPANG— Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes said today the Lotus F1 team will be racing for pride in Bahrain this weekend.

The team principal’s goals for Lotus F1 are two-fold: beat Virgin and stir Malaysian pride.

“We just want to beat Virgin,” an ebullient Fernandes, who is also group chief operating office of AirAsia, told reporters gathered at the departure hall of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, referring to the bet between him and rival British aviation mogul Richard Branson who controls Virgin Airlines.

Fernandes was leaving for the first race of the 2010 F1 season in Bahrain.

The stakes? The loser will have to don a stewardess uniform and work a flight on the winner’s airline.

“My cabin crew have already collected money for stockings for Richard,” he said. “But not fishnets, we’re conservative.”

He acknowledged, however, that it will not be easy.

Lotus F1 will be starting at the back of the grid and was about four seconds off pace during winter testing.

Due to the tight timeline, the car had to be built “conservatively” and is heavier than it should ideally be, although a new “aero package” to lighten the car is in the works.

“We just want to finish,” he said of the season-opener in Bahrain. “Anything else is a bonus. But it’s important to remember that we’re on the grid. No other Asian country, well... besides Japan, has put a car on the grid. This is the way to do it — start small and slowly build.”

He added that he can’t wait for the homecoming race at the Sepang F1 circuit and hopes for the day when Lotus F1 can work its way to the pole position.

“We hope Malaysians will come and support us,” he said. “For the first time, you can put on a Malaysian jersey rather than a foreign brand.”

Our man to Manama, Fernandes gives the all OK to as heads to his flight at the KLIA. - Picture by Choo Choy May

He also took a shot at Singapore.

“Wouldn’t it be great if Negaraku is played in Singapore at their Night Race?”

The Lotus F1 team, backed by Fernandes and other Malaysian businessmen, had come under early criticism due to concerns that it would require government sponsorship.

A hoped-for-deal with national oil company Petronas also fell through when it opted to go with Mercedes GP instead.

But this has not dampened the spirit of Fernandes who could not stop beaming at the airport.

“There were some sceptics but we now see more belief from the media,” he said. “I feel the country is behind us.”

The media buzz surrounding his wager with Branson has also helped lift the profile of AirAsia and he expects to announce a few more sponsorship deals in the coming weeks.

In earlier press conferences, he also said that he hopes to cash in on merchandise sales pointing out that some F1 teams sell hundreds of millions T-shirts alone. The first Lotus F1 merchandise will be arriving in Malaysia in about two weeks.

As they didn’t have time to build a show car, the actual machine will be on display, likely at the Pavilion shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur during the Sepang leg of the season.

“We had six months to build a car with 8,500 parts and put a team together,” he said. “I have to say this is something else — having qualified to race with McLaren and Ferrari is fantastic.”

The Malaysia Insider

AirAsia widens air cargo network, says 2010 growth could hit 40pc

11 March 2010

AIRASIA sees air freight as a major growth area for 2010 and has inked several Special Prorate Agreements (SPAs) with other airlines to achieve its revenue target for 2010.

The Kuala Lumpur-based carrier also is linking with more cargo agents and large export-import firms via its expanding network. It now reaches markets in South Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe beyond its current route network through those SPA deals and expects its cargo revenue to grow by more than 40 per cent over last year’s figure.

Sathis Manoharen, AirAsia regional head for cargo said: “We’ve been signing up more key players in the cargo industry. Demand for our cargo space is picking up, and with AirAsia now up there among the world’s most recognisable brands and with the expanded reach that we have with our airline partners, more large companies are interested in our cargo services. Our prices have allowed us to also increase business with individual senders.”

“AirAsia is growing in many markets, but South Asia is of particular interest because of our rapid expansion there. In November last year, AirAsia started flying to the three Indian cities of Kolkata, Trivandrum and Kochi. These are in addition to our other destinations in the region – Tiruchirappalli, Dhaka and Colombo.

Interest from businesses there is picking up, and this should intensify when we begin flights to even more South Asian cities this year,” Sathis added.

AirAsia has operations based in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. It operates short-haul and long-haul flights on 132 routes to Australia, ASEAN (Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines), mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, UAE and the UK.

Domestic cargo operations are also expected to receive a boost from increased demand for cargo services for perishables, including seafood from West Malaysia. Seafood and other perishables are currently among the carrier's cargo revenue sources, and Manoharen says there is a sizeable demand for cargo services for these between East and Peninsular Malaysia and from East Malaysia to Macau, Hong Kong and China mostly via Kuala Lumpur.

"Most of the increased freight loads are machinery and car parts, electronics, food items, shoes and apparels," added Manoharen.

Lotus target future success

11 March 2010

Tony Fernandes is expecting a quiet Formula One season for Lotus, but has set his sights on future world championship glory.

The iconic Lotus name will return to the F1 grid for the first time in 16 years at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday after being revived by AirAsia founder Fernandes.

But the team principal predicts the Malaysian-backed team, fronted by drivers Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, will need time to adjust before it can make an impact in the sport.


"I think we've already accomplished more than anyone could have dreamt," said Fernandes, whose team built the new T127 car from scratch in just five months.

"I firmly believe that if we continue on the growth path that we will be world champions one day without a doubt.

"We're not here to be second, we're here to win. But we have to be realistic, we're not going to win next year."

The original, and renowned, Team Lotus won six drivers championships and 73 races with pilots such as Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Stirling Moss.

But Fernandes insists his side, funded by a public-private partnership involving a host of Malaysian entrepreneurs, have done well to reach their current position in the face of such strong competition.

"To build 8,500 parts in five months and have a car that at the moment is four seconds off the pace is amazing when you think we're competing against teams that have been around for 70, 80 years," added Fernandes.

The candid tycoon refuses to be put off by cynical comments from other teams, namely Ferrari, criticising the sport's decision to allow the new teams onto the grid this season.


"It's good when people laugh at you because they don't take you seriously," he added.

"It doesn't bother me at all, because you all have to have beginnings."

Fernandes stressed that unlike other recent entrants such as Brawn, now Mercedes GP, and Force India, which were rebranded versions of established teams, Lotus Racing was built from nothing after winning its franchise last September.

He added: "We've got a much harder task. We have to do everything from scratch. Brawn, (which) everyone is raving about, is actually Honda. So our task is much, much larger."

By Rachel Griffiths

Tourism Ministry Targets 650,000 Indian Visitors In 2010

10 March 2010

NEW DELHI, March 10-- The Tourism Ministry has again upped it mark for tourists arrivals from India, hoping to pull in 650,000 visitors to Malaysia this year.

With budget carrier AirAsia making plans to fly to more major Indian cities later this year and the swelling in outbound travel in India, tourism officials are optimistic that the new target can be easily achieved.

"India is a main growth market and the country's outbound travel is booming. With AirAsia scheduled to fly to major cities soon, we can achieve a 10 percent growth without any problems," Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab Beg, Director-General of Tourism Malaysia, told the media here.

Despite the global economic recession last year, tourist arrivals from India were at a record figure of 589,838.

After China, India is the second top tourism generating market for Malaysia in the region.

Mirza is currently leading a mission to six cities in India -- Ahemdabad, Bangalore, Cochin, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai -- to promote Malaysia extensively.

The Tourism Ministry will also focus more on emerging second tier cities in India, where outbound travel is steadily rising, largely spurred by the increasing economic wealth.

Over 23 million visitors from around the globe landed on Malaysian shores last year.


By P.Vijian

AirAsia unveils concert ticketing website

09 March 2010

PETALING JAYA: AirAsia has launched its new online global ticketing service, AirAsiaRedTix, by being the exclusive ticketing agent for Malaysian singing sensation Zee Avi’s March 20 concert.

There will also be an instant 50% discount for tickets purchased online.

According to a press statement yesterday, it said the website was aimed at providing the smartest new way to discover and book tickets to an international line-up of world-class concerts and more.

The venue of the Zee Avi Live concert is at KL Live, Life Centre in Kuala Lumpur and begins at 8pm.

Tickets to the concert can be purchased via from now till midnight of March 18.

The online concert tickets are priced at RM55 for main hall and RM105 for upper deck while tickets sold at KL Live from March 18 to March 20 are priced at RM105 and RM205 respectively.

Online bookings through the website are processed instantly, using the same secure payment gateway as AirAsia to process online credit card payments, and electronic tickets are sent to customers via e-mail.

The Star