Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Zulfahmi impresses in 125cc qualifying

12 April 2010

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian rookie Mohd Zulfahmi Khairuddin put himself in a good position for a point-scoring finish after an impressive qualifying performance in the 125cc class of the season-opening world motorcycle championships at the Losail Circuit in Doha on Saturday.

The 18-year-old, riding for the Air Asia-Sepang International Circuit, posted a time of 2:10.253 for 17th fastest on a grid in a field of 27 riders.

Norwegian team-mate Sturla Fagerhaug was just ahead with the 16th fastest time of 2:10.10.

Zulfahmi showed consistent improvement after the benefit of two practice sessions.

Check us out: Air Asia-Sepang International Circuit riders Mohd Zulfahmi Khairuddin (right) and his Norwegian team-mate Sturla Fagerhaug posing before the start of the MotoGP qualifying practice at the Losail Circuit in Qatar on Saturday.

Zulfahmi was 23rd fastest with a time of 2:13:868 in the first practice session on Friday. He shaved a second more in posting 2:12.117 to go 17th quickest in the second practice session the following day.

Spaniard Marc Marquez set the fastest time in 125cc qualifying to secure pole position for Red Bull Ajo Motorsport in 2:06.651.

Former Malaysian 250cc world championship rider Shahrol Yuzy, who coached the Banting-born Zulfahmi when he rode under a wildcard at the Malaysian Motorcycle GP last year, said that he was impressed by his protege’s form.

“It was his riding experience on the desert track and under night conditions too. He did a very good qualifying session for a rider starting out his first full season. He absorbed all the information and pushed 100% on track,” said Shahrol, who is in Doha.

By Lim Teik Huat

The Star

AirAsia, VietJet Air sign partnership

10 April 2010

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Truong Vinh Trong Thursday (April 8) witnessed the signing of a strategic partnership agreement between VietJet Aviation Joint Stock Company (VietJet Air) and AirAsia Berhad.

VietJet Air CEO Nguyen Duc Tam and AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes signed the agreement in Ha Noi Thursday.

AirAsia had earlier acquired a 30 per cent equity stake in VietJet Air, which is launching a Viet Nam-based low-cost airline. The trade name is tentatively VietJet AirAsia. VietJet AirAsia will be operating both domestic and international flights.

The governments of Viet Nam and Malaysia have been fully supportive to the launch of VietJet AirAsia, which will be offering low fares to grow travel and tourism in Viet Nam and in the rest of the Asean region. The signing of today's agreement on the sidelines of the 16th Asean Conference reinforces both companies' commitment to Vietnamese-Malaysian cooperation for economic growth in the region.

During the official signing ceremony, both companies also announced that they have entered into an engineering support services agreement.

Fernandes said, "We are grateful for the presence of the leaders of Malaysia and Viet Nam as we sign this agreement for strategic partnership. Their presence today is a clear indication that we have the support of both governments in our efforts to further grow tourism in the Asean region.

"Their support is instrumental in our ability to offer low fares to the Vietnamese people and the international tourists who flock to Viet Nam." VietJet AirAsia will complement the existing strengths of Viet Nam's tourism industry and help turn the country into a tourism powerhouse.

"We will be encouraging more tourists to fly to Viet Nam's various beautiful destinations with our low fares and contribute to tourism receipts that will in turn spur economic benefits."

"VietJet AirAsia will help boost tourist arrivals in Malaysia as well, improving the already strong people-to-people relations between Viet Nam and Malaysia and strengthening the process of Asean integration," added Fernandes.

"The launch of flights by VietJet AirAsia will undoubtedly benefit both leisure and business travelers. We expect our low flexible fares and world-class service quality to especially benefit people and enterprises in Vietnam, which are helping boost our economy. We'll also connect Vietnam to more cities in Asean to boost intra-regional travel," Tam said.

"Furthermore, with this services agreement, VietJet Air can enjoy technical expertise, experience in quality assurance, safety and security up to international standard, high quality manpower in aviation industry with a roadmap for technology transfer to VietJet Air's staff, which contributes to raising the standards of services and safety and security in the airline market in Viet Nam as well as in Asean region," Tam added.


AirAsia CEO To Venture Into Healthcare Business ?

09 April 2010

KUALA LUMPUR-- AirAsia Group chief executive officer, Datuk Seri Dr Tony Fernandes, who was recently conferred with an Honorary Doctorate of Business Innovation by Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), may one day venture into the healthcare business.

"Hospitals probably," he said when asked on what other business he would be venturing into next. He recently went into the education sector by taking a 30 per cent stake in Kuala Lumpur Education City (KLEC).

There is still ample of potential in the healthcare industry as private hospitals are way too expensive, and the government hospitals are handling too many patients, Fernandes saying.

"But low cost hospitals doesn't mean that you get half a panadol or bandage," he quipped after witnessing a signing ceremony between KLEC and Judge Business School, University of Cambridge here, on Friday.

As for the recent venture, he said education was a passion for him, and that so many home talents were being lost with them going overseas to study.

"I think there are not enough professional learning centres in the country," he said, indicating his reasons for getting involved in KLEC last year.

Besides aviation and education now, Fernandes also has his hands on the telecommunication, hotels, sports and financial sector.

"I love aviation. I love sports and now I have Lotus F1. One day may be a football club (as well)," he said.

It was reported recently that Fernandes, who is a lifelong West Ham United supporter was invited to come on board the Premier League Club but he has so far declined to become involved.


AirAsia X to increase Kuala Lumpur flights

09 April 2010

SYDNEY'S loss will be Melbourne's gain with Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia X about to expand its popular Tullamarine-Kuala Lumpur service.

The decision to take the Victorian service to two flights a day comes after Malaysian authorities banned the airline from launching new services to Sydney and Seoul because of a row over unpaid airport fees with the carrier's regional affiliate, AirAsia.

AirAsia X and AirAsia have common shareholders but operate as entirely separate businesses.

AirAsia X had planned to expand into Sydney by July after a year-long battle with the Malaysian Government for the rights to operate a service.

Yesterday, AirAsia X chief Azran Osman-Rani said the setback meant that planes would be redeployed with extra flights from Melbourne and Perth.

Neither the airline nor Melbourne Airport has set a launch date for the new upgraded flight schedule.

On the Sydney question, Mr Azran said: "At this stage we can't anticipate when approvals for Sydney might be granted."

AirAsia X operates seven to 12 flights a week from Melbourne depending on the different stages of the tourist season.

The airline this week set out to capture traffic from struggling long-haul rivals Qantas and Singapore Airlines, offering travellers a Melbourne-London return in a flatbed sleeper seat for $4000 -- less than half what the major carriers charge.

In other airline moves yesterday, four overseas carriers were negotiating separate mergers.

US Airways Group and United Airlines were continuing talks aimed at creating America's second-biggest carrier.

Across the Atlantic, British Airways and Spain's Iberia Airlines were reported to have moved closer to completing a $US7.5 billion merger after signing what was said to have been "definitive agreement".

But it learned this week that traffic rights would be withheld until AirAsia settled an outstanding 65 million ringgit ($A22.45 million) debt for airport services with Malaysia Airports Holdings.

by Geoff Easdown

Decision on AirAsia case is deferred

08 April 2010

Kota Kinabalu: The Consumer Claims Tribunal on Tuesday reserved judgement to April 26 on the case of an air traveller who bought a budget airline ticket online for a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne and was charged in Australian currency (AUD$).

Dr Ranjit Mathew Oommen is claiming a total of RM10,000 as he believes he was overcharged when the respondent, Air Asia Berhad, applied AUD$ on the airfare.

Tribunal President Datuk Dr Lawrence S.H Thien said he needed more time to reach a decision after listening to the claimant's stand and respondent's defence on the case.

According to Dr Ranjit, he booked a flight from KL to Melbourne through the Air Asia website on Feb. 10, 2009 and was very surprised to see that the flight was charged in Australian currency amounting to AUD$5,205 when he received his credit card statement.

He claimed that he had no knowledge that the airfare would be charged in Australian currency as he thought he would be paying in Ringgit.

Dr Ranjit told the Tribunal he did make an effort to call the respondent but his plight was not attended to accordingly.

The respondent who was represented by its legal executive Hanie Izawatie Ahmad Kamil said in its rebuttal that the claimant made an original booking from Melbourne to KL at 8am on Feb. 10, 2009 as shown in the records of the airline's website.

And the claimant contacted its call centre agent of the airline a few hours later to change the route from KL to Melbourne on the same day, the respondent said.

She has also submitted documents from their IT server that records all customer online transaction containing proof that the claimant made the original booking at 8am for a flight from Melbourne to KL on Feb. 10, 2009.

"The original booking was not cancelled and the reference from the original booking was used again for the new booking when the claimant changed the route.

"Normally, we would charge our customer the airfare he or she books in our website based on the origin of the flight and we do not allow refund of the airfare, unless in death and medical reason cases, and a cancellation fee would be charged.

"Also, at 9.43am on Feb. 10, 2009, our worker at the call centre agent made a comment that Dr Ranjit called to inform the mistake and made flight changes from KL to Melbourne. Although the claimant booked the flight when he was in KL, the airfare was still generated in AUD$ as the payment made comes from where it originates," she said.

Asked on a voice record where Dr Ranjit called the Call Centre Agent to inform the mistake and made a change of flight, the respondent said the voice record was only kept for six months and it is not available now.

To Thien's query on what the claimant should do in the first place to avoid the airfare being charged in AUD$ the respondent replied that the original booking should be cancelled and a fresh one done so that the correct currency can be charged.

She added that the payment made for the original booking that has been cancelled can be used to offset a new booking and cancellation fee would be charged.

Dr Ranjit denied that he made the original booking for a flight from Melbourne to KL at 8am on Feb 10, 2009 and claimed that the respondent had changed the system.

As for getting refund, the respondent said they do not allow refund as stated on their terms and conditions where payment for flight is unrefundable under its Article 5.1.

According to Thien, the claimant has sued the wrong respondent as the correct one would be Air Asia X Sdn Bhd that collects his airfare money.

In this issue, the respondent said she is not going to go for the technicality as the evidence is still the same for the case.

However, Thien worried that the award would not be workable for the claimant as he would not be collecting his award from the right respondent.

The claimant said he only knows that he deals with Air Asia as printed on the flight printout from the Air Asia website.

Hence, Thien promised to give his written decision in 14 days as the implication of the case is serious.

Daily Express

They listen to their customers

07 April 2010

What’s the secret behind the success of Tune Its Group CEO shares with LAVIINIA DHANAGUNAN the five key factors that go into the planning of the hotels

THE one tune that Mark Lankester needs time to hum, uncharacteristically, is the one of his friendship with AirAsia figurehead Datuk Sri Tony Fernandes.

The group CEO of Tune gives a reflective sigh when asked about his giant leap from music to hotels.

For once, the clear-minded and laid-back entrepreneur doesn’t have an answer off the cuff but has to sift through his memory before replying.

When the answer comes, it’s quite clear that he and Tony share a brotherly bond, one that started from childhood when Tony was Mark’s senior at Alice Smith International School here as well as at boarding school, Epsom College and London School of Economics in the United Kingdom. They also crossed paths at Time Warner, specifically at Warner Music.

When Tony was the South East Asian regional vice-president for Warner Music Group from 1992 to 2001, Mark was the North Asia chairman and CEO from 1998 to 2002.

Tune Hotel
Tune Hotel

“It took me maybe all of five seconds to think about his offer to head Tune when he came to see me in 2006,” says the 44-year old.

Four years on, the limited-service hotel chain is growing by leaps and bounds but the ambitious man behind it all thinks the company has a long way more to go.

Driving force:

Some may wonder what the secret of their success is as Mark and Tony are from the music industry.

“Working at senior management level at Warner Music meant we got tough training. We’re taught to pre-plan and to expect the unexpected. After all, when we say something, we have to deliver it as well,” says Mark, adding that one of the things that he values from his 20-year stint at Warner Music is learning that strategic planning is the key to success when delivering numbers.

Tune is opening 15 hotels in the United Kingdom, 44 hotels across Southeast Asia and 30 throughout Indonesia, as well as planning for a 50 per cent increase in staff members.

“There’s always the prospect of stumbling when starting in new markets. The important thing is to learn from it and move forward,” he says.

Learning is also something that happens through his interaction with the staff at Tune The team works in a relatively open space together with Mark and he recounts an incident with a wide smile.

“I wanted to say something to one of my team leaders and I looked up, saw him on the other side of the room and gave him a shout. It was effective but a couple of people jumped in their seats too. Now, I message people on their computers even if they’re in the room,” he says.

Budget or not?

Mark shakes off the notion quite emphatically that Tune is a budget hotel.

While people may think it fitting to lump the hotel in the category because of its price, the fact is that what goes into the boxy rooms are actually not quite budget standard.

In fact, in its latest hotel in Danga Bay, Johor, guests can find bedding equal to that in a four- or five-star establishment.

“If you make your bookings just before your trip, you’ll find that the prices are about a fifth of the price of a three-star hotel,” he says.

He still considers Tune to be a start-up business and feels that things are moving along slowly for the chain, contrary to popular opinion.

“If you break down our progress, you’d find that Tune has only set up seven hotels in the last two years. The rest, be it in Indonesia, Southeast Asia or the United Kingdom, are still either in development or planning stages,” he explains.

When planning the hotels – from location to accessorising the rooms – there are five factors that must be included in the checklist, the result of a survey of AirAsia customers done in 2006. These include a great night’s sleep, power shower, key locations, security and black-out curtains.

In the questionnaire, guests were asked to list what was important to them for under US$30 (RM99.15) a night and the information was used to get an idea on what to focus on for the Tune brand image.

The company genuinely looks forward to hearing what their guests have to say about the rooms.

“A fact that rarely gets mileage is that our rooms are custom-designed by our guests,” says Mark.

“When we get our hands on the comment forms, we pick up on the comments and try to improve ourselves.

“For example, when we designed our flagship hotel, it was done so with the vision that it was to be hip and trendy. That’s why we fitted the bathroom area with black tiles as that was one of the things that our guests commented on.

“We learned from it and now, our hotel bathrooms all boast of a white interior,” he says.

The key thing, though, is to get the right feedback from guests.

Breakdown of guests:

According to Mark, Tune is not just frequented by backpackers but also by single people and families.

A survey carried out around this time last year showed that about 67 per cent of their customers were people under the age of 35 and about 40 per cent of the customers earned less than US$500 (RM1,657) a month.

Mark says that Tune Hotels allows people to take more weekend breaks than they normally can afford and lets them enjoy far more for the same cost, thanks to their prices.

There’s a gleam in his eyes when he talks about the two categories of backpackers — professional backpackers and “flashpackers”.

“Everyone knows and can spot professional backpackers. They are the ones who routinely travel on the cheap, and are prepared to go all the way to get as much as they can from their travels.

“Flashpackers” is a term used to describe kids who are used to a certain level of lifestyle and whose parents carry platinum credit cards.

While pro backpackers have no qualms about sleeping six to a room and sharing a bathroom with an entire floor, “flashpackers” must have their hot showers and personal space.

“It’s currently the trend for these kids to take a year off university and do a gap year travelling, etc. They are also the kind of people who enjoy staying at our hotels as we give them all they need at an unbelievable price.

Looking forward:

Two more hotels are scheduled to open mid May and early June — one in Danga Bay, Johor, and the other in Kota Damansara, Selangor. Both boast designs suited to their locations.

City hotels need to be in a great location – near shopping areas and be accessible to a variety of food and beverage outlets too. This description aptly describes the Kota Damansara outlet — opening June 1 — as it’s just a short drive away from the Curve, IUtama and all the local eateries in the area.

The Danga Bay branch which is set to open on May 15, while conforming to the need for larger rooms, does not have a swimming pool.

“This 218-room hotel, we feel, will serve as an option for Malaysians who want to visit Universal Studios without feeling the strain on their wallets.

“Having done a little research of all hotels around Resort World Sentosa, I found that the cheapest option is S$240 a night (RM580),” he says.

“If you factor in the book early rule we espouse, an early booking can cost around RM60. The hotel also offers transport to Universal Studios 16 times a day.

“A lot of thought has gone into the design of rooms for the Danga Bay hotel and it’ll definitely be a new experience for Tune customers.”



Macau-bound AirAsia plane makes emergency landing

08 April 2010

GEORGE TOWN: A Macau-bound AirAsia plane was forced to make an emergency landing at the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas on Thursday an hour after take-off due to a technical problem.

A source said the pilot of AK5072 found that one of the two engines of the aircraft was experiencing some “technical difficulties” during the flight and immediately decided to return to the airport with 158 passengers and crew onboard.

Sources said the pilot alerted the control tower and landed the plane safely at the airport at about 7.30am.

AirAsia technical staff are trying to determine the fault.

AirAsia flew the passengers of the delayed flight to Macau on another plane at about 12.40pm.

On March 25, a Malaysian Airline plane carrying 95 people made an emergency landing at the same airport due to engine trouble.

The Boeing 737 flight from Singapore to Penang called for the emergency landing just as the aircraft was about to land, suspecting that the plane’s right engine was on fire.

The Star

AirAsia enhances flight from the Northern Gateway

07 April 2010

SEPANG – AirAsia will be enhancing its flights from the Northern Gateway with the inclusion of a new daily domestic flight from Penang – Langkawi which is set to commence on 13th May 2010. In conjunction with this new service, AirAsia will be offering all-in-fare from RM9* where guest are required to pay for the airport tax only.

The 4 days offer is available exclusively online at for the booking period from 8 to 11 April 2010 for the travel period from 13 May 2010 to 13 February 2011.

To make the deal sweeter, is offering hotel rooms from RM100 per night from 3-5 star participating hotels to choose from. These include Eagle Bay Hotel, Hotel Grand Continental Langkawi, Bayview Hotel Langkawi and Rebak Island Resort Langkawi – A Taj Hotel.

Currently there are a total of 123 domestic and international flights weekly from the city dubbed as ‘Pearl of the Orient’. Among the domestic destinations flying from Penang are to Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu, and Johor Bahru while the international destinations include Bangkok, Jakarta, Medan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Chennai.

Kathleen Tan, Regional Head of Commercial, AirAsia Berhad says “There is huge potential for the route as there are quite a number of tourist traffic who stops by Penang before continuing their journey to Langkawi. We strongly believe that this new service is a pledge to business travelers who are time sensitive. Guests opting to hub in Penang and hop to Langkawi no longer need to trouble themselves by traveling by road to Penang or taking the ferry to Langkawi from the city. With the new route, flying would be an easier option and more importantly cost effective!,”

“Langkawi is still one of the most popular tourist destinations in Malaysia. The island is famous for its beautiful beaches, tasty local food and duty free shopping. The lure of Langkawi’s serenity makes it an ideal short retreat for families and busy working professionals. Penang needs no introduction as it is destination that is well-known for its tantalizing gastronomic offerings ranging from fine Chinese, Malay and Indian delicacies and diverse culture.” concluded Kathleen

Besides enjoying low fares, guests may also purchase complete holiday packages or tour activities at where they may choose their holiday lodgings from over 70,000 hotels.

AirAsia X Introduces New Flatbed PREMIUM Seats!

05 April 2010

Luxury of business class at incredible low fares

KUALA LUMPUR, 5 April 2010 – AirAsia X revealed another enhancement in its services today with the introduction of new comfortable ‘flatbed Premium seats’, giving the ‘AirAsia flying experience’ a new meaning and elevating the brand to a higher level. The new improvement is set to distinguish the world’s most successful low-cost long-haul airline as a distinctive leader in the market, further bolstering the brand as the advocates of innovation and excellence.

AirAsia X is proudly the first low-cost carrier in the world to introduce flatbed seats. The flatbed seats are standard business class specifications of 20” width, 60” pitch and stretches out to 77” in full recline position. The seats feature universal power sockets, adjustable headrests and built-in personal utilities such as tray table, drink holder, reading light and privacy screen.

Premium seat guests will get to enjoy the following premium complimentary product and services: Pick A Seat, Priority Check-in, Priority Boarding, Priority Baggage, Baggage Allowance, Combo Meal and Comfort Kit.*

AirAsia X CEO, Azran Osman-Rani said, “After reviewing all the feedback that we received from guests on our services, the need for better and comfortable seats tops the list. As frequent flyers ourselves, we understand the great need for comfort especially for long-haul flights. We are happy to tell our guests that their wishes are granted. We thank our guests for the feedbacks and they will definitely enjoy the new level of comfort on our flights from now on.”

“Both business and leisure travellers can now treat themselves to the luxury and comfort of our new premium seats and still enjoy great savings. We concede that the old seats were neither suitable nor comfortable for long-haul flights. But true to AirAsia tradition, we change and adapt. We are always on our toes to seek for constant improvements, providing the best products and services to our guests,” Azran said.

AirAsia X has revamped its economy class seats with new ergonomical, reclineable seats at 31” pitch equipped with comfortable adjustable headrests. The airline also decided to move away from traditional black leather and opt for a mix of red and grey, which contributes to brighter cabin ambience.

AirAsia X is currently upgrading its whole fleet with the new seats in stages for all long-haul flights to Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth, Taipei, Hangzhou, Tianjin, Chengdu, London, Mumbai and New Delhi. The refurbishment process is expected to be completed by June 2010. Until all aircraft are fully furnished with the new seats, the term ‘flatbed’ will appear next to the flight information during booking process, to inform guests that premium seats are available on the particular flight.

The refurbishment will allow AirAsia X’s A330 to have a seat configuration of 12 flatbed premium seats (28 currently) and 365 economy seats (355 currently). The new configuration for the airline’s A340 is 18 flatbed seats (30 currently) and 309 economy seats (256 currently).

Premium seats are available online at