Thursday, August 22

Wider regional reach

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Fernandes gestures while delivering his keynote address at the first-ever Sarawak Dialogue. — Bernama photo

KUCHING: AirAsia Bhd is not far away from launching the Kuching-Bangkok and Kuching-Jakarta routes, upon the setting up of a low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) here.

According to AirAsia group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, the low-cost carrier sees great potential in Sarawak and is looking at expanding flight routes between the state and Southeast Asia.

He points out that AirAsia has already launched its Bintulu-Singapore, Kuching-Shenzhen, Kuching-Langkawi and Kuching-Pontianak routes.

“We are not far away from launching Kuching-Bangkok and Kuching-Jakarta (routes). We believe in Sarawak’s potential, especially once we have a LCCT in Kuching,” he said in his keynote address ‘Flying High’ at the inaugural ‘Sarawak Dialogue’ here yesterday.

Fernandes said he would be looking forward to having a LCCT in the city so that AirAsia could ‘start growing’. He said AirAsia would continue to appreciate and nurture talents as what it had set out to do in the first place.

“I don’t care whether you went to Stanford (University) or Cambridge (University) because all you need is to have a brain. As long as you have a brain, we will support you by transforming from a raw diamond into a diamond.”

Fernandes recalled having come across a boy from Sibu who used to load and unload baggage with him. He found the Sibu boy to be very gifted and therefore, encouraged him to go the extra mile to excel in his life.

He added that the Sibu boy was ‘smart’, but lacked the financial means to pursue a better life.

“AirAsia groomed him and later he became a pilot. Today, he is a captain and about to become an instructor. We are all about giving the people the ability to grow,” he pointed out.

AirAsia is also known to be the first airline in the world to have recruited women to become pilots. According to Fernandes, AirAsia presently has 89 female pilots. He said AirAsia had run flights where the pilot, the co-pilot and cabin crew members were all women.

“And all the passengers were males,” he quipped, before quickly adding: “Of course the last part is not true.” Fernandes stressed that AirAsia could not care less when it came to talents.

“We embrace and celebrate talents.”

He even told those present that he would not usually ‘put on a suit and a tie’, but he was all dressed up for the occasion because he had to deliver the keynote address before Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

For Fernandes, appearing all smart and formal would create a distance between him and his employees, which would get in the way of him obtaining a clearer picture of what was happening at the workplace that he had been building up since 2001.

“When you’re in a suit, your employees might not want to be close to you. Usually I just dress like a normal guy, whom the airport Immigration once mistook as a Bangladeshi. But that’s okay,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience.

Fernandes said being in the business and successful in any endeavour had everything to do with the people.

“People, people, people – that’s our secret. Everyone in AirAsia can dream and believe in what they can do,” he pointed out.

Related News: AirAsia to launch direct flights to Jakarta, Bangkok from Kuching soon