KUCHING: Most people associate Dato’ Seri Tony Fernandes with the ‘No Frills’ airline tag or AirAsia and those in the know will refer him to as AirAsia Group CEO.
In fact he is more than this. Sir Tony Fernandes as he should be called now that he has been honoured with the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) honour by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, was appointed Group chief executive officer of the company in December 2001.
Fernandes, 46, is also a member of the Employee Share Option Committee of the Board.
He was Financial Controller at Virgin Communications London (1987-1989), and moved on to be senior financial analyst at Warner Music International London (1989-1992), managing director at Warner Director at Warner Music Malaysia (1992-1996), regional managing director, Asean (1996-1999) and vice president, Asean at Warner Music South East Asia (1999-2001).
He was admitted as an associate member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in 1991, and became a fellow member in 1996.
In 1999, the Sultan of Selangor Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah bestowed on him the title ‘Setia Mahkota Selangor’, for his contributions to the Malaysian music industry. He was the recipient of the ‘Recording Industry Person of the Year 1997’ by the Recording Industry Association of Malaysia.
With AirAsia, he received accolades from international press and industry observers such as ‘Airline Business Strategy Award 2005 and Low Cost Leadership’ by Airline Business and ‘Asia Pacific Aviation Executive’ by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa) for the year 2004 and 2005.
In July 2005, he was conferred the Darjah Datuk Paduka Tuanku Ja’afar (DPTJ) which carries the title Dato’ by the Negeri Sembilan’s Yang DiPertuan Besar Tuanku Ja’afar Tuanku Abdul, for his services rendered to the betterment of the nation and community.
In 2006 and 2007, he bagged ‘The Brand Laureate’ Brand Personality for his exemplary performance, dedication and contribution towards the aviation industry in Malaysia.
In 2007, he was bestowed the Darjah Sultan Ahmad Shah Pahang (DSAP) which carries the title Dato’ by the Pahang’s Sultan Haji Ahmad Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Sir Abu Bakar Riayatuddin Al-Muadzam Shah for his services rendered to the betterment of the nation and community.
In 2008, he was again honoured by the Sultan with the Darjah Kebesaran Sultan Ahmad Shah Pahang Yang Amat Di Mulia which carries the title Dato’ Seri.
The ‘CAPA Legend Award 2009 (Aviation Hall of Fame)’ recognised his influential actions for directly shaping the way the aviation industry has evolved, and the ‘Airline CEO of the Year Award for 2009’ from Jane’s Transport Finance was for his success in leading and growing AirAsia into the world’s best low-cost airline and Asia’s largest.
He received an Honorary Doctorate of Business Innovation from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) in March 2010 for his role in changing the face of aviation and benefitting travelers and economies locally and in the region. He was honoured with the title of ‘Officer of the Legion d’Honneur’ by the government of France in April 2010, for outstanding contributions to the French aviation industry. It is the highest rank of honour that the government of France can award to a non-French citizen.
In May 2010, Fernandes was awarded the prestigious Nikkei Asia Prize in Tokyo today for his contributions to the growth of Asia. The prize, given by leading Japanese newspaper publisher Nikkei Inc, recognises Tony’s role in democratising travel in Asia.
He was also the proud recipient of the Masterclass Global CEO of the Year award at the 2nd Malaysia Business Leadership Award (MBLA) 2010 ceremony for his immense contributions to the country’s economy.
Another feather to the cap was the prestigious Forbes Asia Businessman of the Year 2010 award. He is the first Malaysian and Southeast Asian to receive the award.
The hugely popular icon of aviation is credited for democratising air travel in the region and for growing a Malaysian company into a highly successful global brand.
And in March 2011, Fernandes was finally awarded the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) honour by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The award was conferred for services to promote commercial and educational links between the United Kingdom and Malaysia.
In London, after receiving the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) award, Tony said this only serve to further facilitate the promotion of commercial and cultural ties between the United Kingdom and Malaysia.
The award is attributed to his “services to promote commercial and educational links” between the UK and Malaysia.
“I am extremely humbled to have received this award today and I would like to thank Her Majesty The Queen for bestowing such an honour upon me. More than a personal honour, it will serve as a catalyst to further enhance relations between the UK and Malaysia, particularly in the areas of business, culture and education,” he was quoted as saying.
The iconic entrepreneur wears several hats including Team Principal of Team Lotus, Group CEO of the world’s best low cost airline AirAsia and founder of the fledgling Malaysian-based conglomerate Tune Group.
He added, “I receive this award today not on my behalf, but on behalf of all the incredible people I work with, wherever they may be around the world. It is their dedication, passion, enthusiasm and hard work that drives me on every single day and it is also my great honour to have the privilege of working with them.”
His personal credo is “Dream the Impossible, Believe the Unbelievable and Never Take No for an Answer,” and he believes deeply in providing opportunities throughout his businesses for talent to flourish, for meritocracy to reign and for helping people realise their dreams.
“I realised mine, and I am determined to help others realise theirs too,” sums up Fernandes’s approach to his work and personal life.
His business philosophy is simple: Serve the Underserved – a philosophy encapsulated in AirAsia’s memorable tag line: “Now Everyone Can Fly.”
Having democratised air travel by freeing it from the clutches of the elite, Fernandes is determined to break down the affordability barrier in other aspects of daily life – hence Tune Hotels, Tune Money and Tune Talk, the radical Team Lotus approach to F1 – and the Epsom College campus in Malaysia.
The CBE is the second major award conferred on him in Europe. In 2010, the French government conferred upon him the title of ‘Officier of the Legion d’honneur’, the highest award for a non-French national, for his outstanding contributions to the aviation industry.
He was also recently named ‘Asia Businessman of the Year 2010’ by the international magazine Forbes, and has gathered a slew of other top awards from private bodies and media organisations for his innovative approach to business.