Short-haul air travel will recover first, says Fernandes

Tony Fernandes with EY Malaysia’s Philip Rao during the live video interview. (Twitter pic)

PETALING JAYA: Tony Fernandes is confident that air travel will recover from the impact of the global Covid-19 pandemic, with short-haul flights being the first to return to normal.

The AirAsia boss made this assessment during a live video interview with the EY Entrepreneur of the Year CEO Retreat on Monday, The Irish Times reported.

Predicting that the current barriers to travel would ease, Fernandes said his belief comes from the fact that “we are too globalised a world for it not to (recover).”

“A vaccine will come, treatments will come and tests will be quicker. So travel will come back,” he was quoted as saying, adding that air travel can be divided into four divisions – long-haul, short-haul, business and leisure.

“I think the one that’s going to recover fastest is short-haul. But business travel is going to be affected for a while.

“People are beginning to question whether there is a need for business travel with Zoom and all of these things, but it will come back,” he said during the interview by Philip Rao, the partner lead for EY Malaysia.

Speaking of his team at AirAsia, Fernandes said their “will to win” was phenomenal.

“I have never seen a crisis on the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic before, but there is only one thing you can do in this life, and that is to fight right back.

“That’s the challenge. You have to regroup, rebrand, re-pivot, re-everything really, and come back stronger,” he said, adding that AirAsia will survive.

Fernandes also said he had thought of retiring from the airline until the pandemic struck earlier this year, adding that it was still the long-term plan.

“The organisation is bigger than one man and it will continue long after I am gone. And when I leave AirAsia, I will not stay on in any role,” he was quoted as saying by the Irish daily.