After 18 months of pandemic, travel industry is not in the best shape. However, Tony Fernandes, Group CEO, Air Asia, is very optimistic that with mass vaccination programs going on everywhere, proper precautions and travel guidelines, industry will revive soon.
In spite of slump in business for aviation industry, Tony Fernandes, CEO of Air Asia, is positive and confident that travel and tourism will soon emerge. “We’re still in lockdown, cases are record high, but I am optimistic this will end, as vaccines are coming in and we can see from our brothers in Europe and America that life is going back to normal. I think those with two vaccinations will be allowed to fly, probably towards the end of the year.” he adds.
Mass vaccination programs going on everywhere, with proper precautions and travel guidelines, people have started travelling. When asked about it, he said “I am impressed how efficiently vaccine is rolled out in Malaysia. We’ve
lived through AIDS, many other outbreaks, and this is the toughest for sure, but we’ll come back stronger.”
He is happy with the fact that most of the airlines have survived, though some of them have gone into bankruptcy. “I’m happy, competitor or no competitor; the airline industry is more or less, in a good state. Its good news that, United’s buying planes again and Airbus is talking about uplift orders. ” he shares.
He also spoke about the quantum of domestic operations in Malaysia, which is very small at present and he awaits for things to open up. Regarding business travel, he said “I am impressed with the manner, Southwest has lifted its promotion of business travel, from low priced carrier to a not really low-cost carrier anymore.”
Comparing the present situation with 9/11, he said “After the incident, it was very difficult for people to travel to America with all the interrogation methods, however people didn’t stop travelling. Similarly, people will get used to COVID testing methods and guidelines. People are robust, they can’t wait to travel again. They want to go on a holiday, want to meet their families and so many reasons. Every single person I meet, wants to get on a plane and travel.”
He believes that intercontinental travel is going to take a hit for a while. However, long-haul hub carriers will not recover as quickly as low-cost carriers, not because they are better, but the market is going to change. People would rather jump on a plane to Phuket, or even domestically than schlep all the way to Australia.
He also expressed his emotions for Air Asia and that helping others is a lesson he has learned from the pandemic. He said, “My most important lesson from this is, you could be paying someone for 19 years, you could have grown their business from 200,000 to 19 million, and they’ve made so much money from us, but they forget that in one week, when you miss a payment.” Claiming that he is very straightforward about it, Fernandes says he will not forget people who treated him badly and the ones who have treated him well. It’s a motivation for him to come back stronger than before.