KOTA KINABALU (Dec 4): AirAsia on Monday launched a special tribute livery dedicated to the late Datuk Irene Benggon Charuruks – a Sabah tourism icon and the former General Manager of the Sabah Tourism Board.
Irene was a key figure in shaping and promoting Sabah’s tourism sector and has been supporting AirAsia as a key tourism player in the state since its inception 22 years ago.
The special tribute livery is a reflection of the airline’s appreciation for her impactful support and a symbol of the close ties between AirAsia and Sabah.
Capital A Executive Chairman, Datuk Kamarudin Meranun said: “After over two decades of unyielding support from Datuk Irene, we are humbled and honoured to unveil a special livery dedicated to her. Her instrumental role in shaping and promoting Sabah’s tourism and collaborative spirit was pivotal in establishing our Kota Kinabalu hub, and we owe a debt of gratitude for her steadfast support. We salute you, Datuk Irene, and thank you for being a true partner and an integral part of the AirAsia journey.”
Capital A CEO, Tony Fernandes added: “Sabah is such a special place for AirAsia, where we have grown exponentially flying more than 80 million passengers to/from Sabah since 2002 until November 2023. However, no matter how successful we are, we will never forget those people who helped us along the way, and Datuk Irene was one of those who truly believed in us. Back in 2001, when the news about Din and I decided to acquire an airline was out, there was only one person who took it really seriously and that person was Datuk Irene. With her continued support, we established Sabah as a hub and the rest is history. So Irene this special livery is for you, it will be the first plane we ever named and we dedicated it to you. Look out for it when it is flying in the skies especially over Sabah when you look down on us. Rest in peace and lots of love from all of us at AirAsia.”
After establishing Kota Kinabalu as a hub in 2002 with the support of Irene and the Sabah Tourism Board, Kota Kinabalu became AirAsia’s second biggest hub after Kuala Lumpur.
As the biggest airline with the widest connectivity in the state, AirAsia now flies 21 routes including domestic and international destinations with 331 flights weekly from Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau.
In 2014, AirAsia launched the ‘Thank You Sabah’ livery dedicated to the Land Below the Wind and the people of Sabah for their undivided support for the airline’s significant presence in the state. Today, the airline is taking one step further to honour Sabah and the late Datuk Irene by naming one of its planes after her.
AirAsia operates flights from three destinations in Sabah: Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, and Tawau, to various destinations, including Singapore, Indonesia, China, Hong Kong, Taipei, Philippines and more. The airline is also planning to introduce new routes, such as Seoul to Kota Kinabalu, among other exciting destinations in the upcoming year and beyond.
Also present at the ceremony was Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai.