Sarawak a ‘phenomenal brand’, says AirAsia chief


Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group chief executive officer (File Photo)

KUCHING: Sarawak is a growing brand and set to achieve more in the tourism industry, given its rich culture and biodiversity.

In pointing this out, AirAsia Bhd group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes views Sarawak as ‘a phenomenal brand’, adding that more efforts should be undertaken to promote the state.

“As the Chief Minister (Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg) said earlier, Sarawak is rich in biodiversity, culture and amazing rivers.

“There is a diversity of culture from Mulu, to Kuching, to Sibu. You have to work together with the airlines, while embarking into the digital world.

“The digital world should enable Sarawak to reach (out) to a larger amount of people, and you have this Rainforest World Music Festival as well,” he said in response to a question raised during a session at ‘Sarawak Dialogue’ yesterday.

Abang Johari launched the inaugural event themed ‘Sarawak, The Bridge to New Beginnings’ focusing on four major sectors – tourism, education, health and digital economy.

On another subject Fernandes, who was the keynote speaker, described Africa as a potential continent for AirAsia to explore and expand its network to.

He added that at present, the low-cost carrier lacks the appropriate aircraft to fly to Africa.

“Africa is going to be huge for us. We’re just waiting for the right planes to be delivered to us,” he said, adding that potential African routes could ‘happen in the next two years’.

“We want to fly to all continents – I’ll probably retire when we (AirAsia) fly to Rio (de Janeiro) to play a football game there,” he quipped.

These remarks were made in response to another question posed by one of the participants.

On another question, Tony said AirAsia is looking into the feasibility of implementing dual aerobridge system at its low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT).

He said it would take some time for passengers to board onto and disembark from the aircraft via single aerobridge.

“When you use the aerobridge, there is only one way to enter and exit,” he said, adding that the conventional staircases allow passengers to use either one of two access points to board or disembark.

According to Fernandes, another reason that AirAsia is not presently using aerobridge is to cut down operational cost so as to offer lower fares to passengers.

“As you know, we have to pay for the (usage of the) aerobridge. I know it is not a lot, but it adds up,” he pointed out.

In his keynote address, Tony said AirAsia strives to remain as resilient as possible in order to thrive in the industry.

During the bird’s flu outbreak in the past, he said many airlines decided to reduce flights to prevent risks at all costs.

He then suggested for AirAsia to offer more flights at lower fares, but this invited a ‘are you crazy?’ remark from one of his management officers.

“I then told him that I know Malaysians. If you’re willing to offer them lower airfares, they are willing to put their lives at risk,” he said with a grin.

Fernandes added that people should not try to think too far ahead, but to ‘take baby steps’ to move along and forward.