SINGAPORE: The man who took to the skies and spearheaded budget air travel in Asia is now trying to slow down a little.
AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes told Channel News Asia (CNA) that over the past year he has been working out a “proper balance” because “life is also about taking a break”.
He added that it was impossible to “run at 100 per cent all day, every day”.
He was speaking to CNA after the launch of his new memoir, Flying High, in Singapore on Oct 30.
In the 244-page book, Fernandes writes about his childhood, teenage years in a United Kingdom boarding school and subsequent journey from running a music company to an airline.
In the book, Fernandes describes himself as a man who “did everything to the max”. He is known to often work up to 18 hours a day.
He told CNA he was now trying to “slow down a little bit”.
“When I (travel), it’ll just be meetings and meetings before I fly off. Now, I’d spend a bit more time enjoying the culture and the place. Just slow down a little bit and moderating my pace,” he said.
“In some ways, I think I’m more effective now because I’m stable.”
Fernandes, 53, attributed this stability to his 34-year-old South Korean wife Chloe, whom he married two weeks ago. The couple, who met at a restaurant in Paris, had been dating for two years.
“I’m happy. I’m stable. I’m not running around like a headless chicken,” he told CNA. “I’ve got a fantastic partner who makes me feel very content and happy, and I enjoy being with her.”
But, he said, he would continue working on his plans for AirAsia. This includes the roll-out of his “One AirAsia” vision, which involves consolidating the low-cost carrier’s Southeast Asian units under one listed holding company.
Fernandes and his business partner Kamarudin Meranun took over the debt-ridden AirAsia at a cost of RM1 in 2001, and later transformed it into Asia’s biggest low-cost carrier. From an ailing two-plane airline, AirAsia now owns 220 aircraft and its staff size has ballooned from 200 to 20,000 across Asia.
Fernandes, who has a degree in accountancy, told CNA: “I was the most positive person in the world but never would I believe that we could have created what we created. There’s a lot of big bad wolves out there who wanted to kill us and we are like the Little Red Riding Hood.”
Fernandes, who is somewhat of a rock star and a role model for some budding entrepreneurs, said: “Life hasn’t changed much for me. I still feel like the same person as before… so it’s a fantasy to see a book about me and to hear kids up there saying I have inspired them. It’s a nice feeling but I never believed it would happen.”
He hopes his book will be an inspiration and a proof that dreams “do come true”.
“Firstly, dreaming is good. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t dream. Secondly, love whatever you do and understand that there’s no substitute to hard work. Lastly, live life to the most. Don’t listen to others – I’ve never listened to my parents who told me to be a doctor but I did what I wanted to do,” Fernandes was quoted as saying.