DAVAO (Philippines): After establishing AirAsia Bhd on a strong footing in the Asian aviation market for the past 16 years, its group CEO Tony Fernandes plans to consolidate the low-cost carrier Southeast Asian units under one listed holding company.
The “One AirAsia” plan seeks to bring together the company’s Southeast Asian units in Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, and to go public in two years’ time.
“The first step is to create the group company, and AirAsia group deputy chief executive officer Rozman Omar is working hard on it. Is a lot of work to do ‘One AirAsia’ as a corporate structure. But ‘One AirAsia’ as a company within a company is working really well.
“We are reducing costs, combining a lot of services, standardising a lot of products,” he told reporters after announcing AirAsia’s direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Davao, starting Dec 21 this year.
Fernandes said the corporate structure exercise would involve a lot of work as the company has to persuade the Malaysian, Thai, Philippine and Indonesian governments to change the ownership rules, but it is beginning to happen.
“There is light (at the end of the tunnel). The last time I thought the tunnel was closed… now I see some light,” he added.
Asked when the One AirAsia could be realised, Fernandes said: “My target would be two years. But hey, AirAsia is going places no one has ever gone before.”
To pave the way for the setting up of the holding company, AirAsia needs to list the Philippine and Indonesian units. Currently, only the Malaysian and Thai units are listed.
On the latest update of the AirAsia’s plan to list its Philippine unit, he said: “Plans are going as planned. Our group deputy CEO Rozman is handling both the Indonesian and Philippine (units).
“We are very optimistic on both… business in Indonesia and the Philippines have been very strong for us. It is the right time.”
Fernandes said he targeted the Philippine unit to conduct an initial public offering by this year or the first quarter of next year, adding that it was a good time for AirAsia to get listed and expand amid the Philippine government’s policies, as well as the opening up of the aviation market.
He said the launch of direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Davao reflected AirAsia’s commitment in expanding the Philippine market.
“Today is a great day because I love starting routes that no one else does. I love connecting people that don’t have connections.
“You will see how appreciative they (passengers) are of AirAsia opening to Kuala Lumpur.
“That’s a great thing. That is what we want to continue doing, bringing people closer together and making Asean a real market.
“AirAsia has been recognised as an Asean brand. It’s great for a Malaysian company to be doing that.
“We will continue that journey. Where it takes us, I don’t know. But I can see that people around Asean really like AirAsia.
“Today was very nice how they really appreciate what we were doing… So, it is a good start,” he said.
On AirAsia’s plan to add more planes to its fleet to cater to the airline’s expansion plan and growing demand for affordable air travel, Fernandes said:
“We talk to Airbus every day about buying more planes. We probably don’t have enough planes and we began to lease more.
“But this is the best period I have ever seen in AirAsia. We would definitely be revising the number.”
On new plane deliveries, he said AirAsia bought another 14 planes and would take delivery of 29 planes this year.
On the long-haul expansion plan, he said AirAsia X Bhd has to get some more planes and would announce some destinations once that is finalised, adding that London is not on the plan at the moment.
However, Fernandes hopes the Los Angeles route could commence next year as it is a potential route after Hawaii.
“We are really short of planes at the moment. So, we have to wait and see when we can get those planes,” he added.
Asked whether AirAsia plans to penetrate the Central Asian market, Fernandes said: “AirAsia is all about going everywhere. The Central Asian region has beautiful countries with amazing histories. For sure, we will be there one day.”