On pinnacle of the sector

IT’S been a great, right 12 months for AirAsia Group leader govt officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes. So plenty so that the best wishes one phrase to describe 2017: “Amazing.”

And who may want to blame him?

The price range airline’s latest sixteenth anniversary turned into made even sweeter whilst it snagged the World’s Leading Low-Cost Airline award for the 5th year in a row on the World Travel Awards grand final held in Vietnam. And there had been the 9 times Skytrax named them the World Best Low-Cost Airline. Sunday Star stuck up with the company captain at AirAsia’s RedQ headquarters in Sepang to mirror at the eventful 12 months and learned, among others, why his one word for 2018 is “digital.”

Sporting a chambray blue tee, khaki-colored pants, and tan leather-based shoes, the 53-year-vintage has an affable air, cracking jokes with the videographers as they readied him for the interview. A cream-strapped Apple watch, a silver wire bracelet, and a marriage ring are his handiest add-ons. Asked approximately his Korean spouse, whom he married in October, Tony breaks out into a hearty chuckle about his existence as a married man now. Well, allow me to ask my group of workers. I’m driving them crazy due to the fact I’m lots more targeted now. “Focus is my keyword in life now. It’s been fantastic. I experience it; I enjoy going back home, I enjoy doing matters with a person else.”

Did he go down on one knee to endorse?

“No, because I’m too antique. And my knees are giving me issues. This one, mainly, my meniscus became torn at the time,” says Tony, smacking his right knee. What he did, the percentage turned into that he popped the query at the Parisian eating place where they first met. “It becomes closed; it became freezing. And I did something I in no way idea I would do. Of direction, I did it with a bit of favor, which I changed into laughed at (for) using different people,” he jokes.

Pressed for greater information, Tony remains coy and said the statistics would best emerge in a “Life of Me”-fashion biopic after his passing. I proposed that I met her and went through the whole rigmarole to make certain she is familiar with – she didn’t comprehend it – changed into the sort of not me. So it became cool.”


As for AirAsia’s momentous year and how the airline had accomplished things differently compared to its rivals, Tony says AirAsia places humans first. “I think we attempt hard to make the revel in as actual as possible; in phrases of our cabin crew, in terms of the meals; it’s not organized using a few French chefs within the middle of nowhere, it’s nearby food, it’s human beings meals, it’s practical.

“Our team is as real as they arrive; our seats are made to be as at ease as they can with the constraints that we have,” he says. Another huge plus is that many of the locations they fly to “have never been ever touched” by different events. Apart from being a humans-primarily based and “practical, simple” airline, AirAsia is also trying to be greater technologically savvy.

“We started the primary dot-com internet site in Asia, AirAsia.Com, where you could truly purchase seats. I think Malaysia Airlines accompanied seven to 8 years after us, and so did Singapore Airlines.” As for 2018, Tony says it will be all approximate customer service with quite a few investments in the sales force.

“I want to make our clients clearly happy. I think we may be a whole lot better than we’re. I think we ought to be asking ourselves what our failings are. I want on the way to respond to our customers quickly, our guests quick, (to) get a reimbursement, or (ask) a query,” he provides.

Is that component missing proper now?

Not to Tony, who merely thinks it can be tons higher. “We do respond, but I assume we’re gradual on occasion in our responses; we’re bureaucratic in our responses. I need to be slick. “I don’t benchmark myself against other airlines – I benchmark with who’s exceptional inside the global. Amazon is one of the satisfactory within the world in e-commerce, so we’ve been given to try and be as suitable as them. They’re superb at replying to customers speedy; stay; there’s generation there. So that’s the big drive for me,” he says.

Likening AirAsia to a “save within the sky,” Tony says he desires to make the airline the Alibaba and Amazon of the tour. “Lots of things developing over the next yr to try this. 2018 in one phrase? Digital,” he provides. To make it easier for humans to fly with AirAsia, Tony hopes to use statistics and generation to improve their reliability and on-time performance, learn more about their customers and offer a higher, personalized flying revel in.

“Every airline goes to have delays; it’s the way you control delays. So all the one’s things were my goal in 2018,” says Tony, including that his people – and the task of displaying that Malaysia may be high-quality – maintain him going. Other demanding situations beforehand consist of Malaysian Aviation Commission’s (Malcolm) circulate to impose a hike in passenger carrier charge (PSC) for those taking international flights to non-Asian destinations from KLIA2.

Next month, they may have to pay the equal PSC of RM73 as other airports, up from RM50. “Look, people protest about the toll. People fear sugar going up 10 sen a kilo. This will affect humans. Travel is not (handiest) for the rich anymore; the journey is for the loads,” says Tony.

“So Malcolm and Malaysia Airports (MAHB) need to realize there are two sorts of travelers. There are low-cost guests in which every penny makes a distinction, and there are complete service travelers.” He gave the instance of how a “first-class or commercial enterprise-class” vacationer on a full-service airline is “now not going even to recognize wherein the airport tax is.” In contrast, someone paying RM150 to go to Bangkok goes to sense it once they have to pay RM75 in airport tax.