Tony Fernandes, CBE is the Chief Executive of AirAsia which he turned around from a loss-making carrier to highly successful international airline. He championed the creation of an open skies agreement in the region paving the way for the rise of budget airlines. He bought the ailing AirAsia airline from the Malaysian government days after the 9/11 in 2001 for the equivalent of 20p and with debt of £10m. He took advantage of cheap financing, aircraft leasing and redundancies elsewhere in the airline sector to recruit staff and turn the airline around within 12 months.
His passion to lead AirAsia can be attributed to his time spent working at Virgin Airways where he was influenced by Virgins founder and friend, Sir Richard Branson. The business model for AirAsia was simple. Fernandes believed Malaysian travelers would embrace a cut-rate air service that would save them time and money, especially in a tight economy. That was why he copied one of the world’s most successful no-frills carriers, Ireland’s Ryanair.
Fernandes estimates that about 50 per cent of the travellers on Asia’s budget airlines are first-time flyers. Before AirAsia, he estimated that only six per cent of Malaysians had ever travelled in a plane. Fernandes is the founder of the Caterham F1 team, which began racing in 2010 as Lotus Racing and raced in 2011 as Team Lotus. He has also launched a no-frills hotel chain, Tune Hotels and is passionate about helping to develop sport in Asia where he is president of the ASEAN basketball League.
He is the host on The Apprentice Asia and has invested in and is the chairman of the Board of Governors of Epsom College’s new groundbreaking offshoot in Kuala Lumpar. Tony was educated at Epsom College in the UK one leading public schools and latterly educated at the London School of Economics.In 2011 he bought a majority shareholding in Queen’s Park Rangers a leading English football team playing in the Premiere League. Despite heavy investment in players and management, QPR were relegated from the Premiere League in 2013 and Fernandes has made no secret of his contempt for a lack of passion by his overpaid players.
Fernandes has achieved many accolades and awards throughout his professional career. He is a winner of GQ India’s International Businessman of the Year 2012, and the Malaysian Investor Relations Association’s Best CEO for Investor Relations, Mid Cap for 2012. In 2011 he was named Panglima Setia Mahkota (Commander of the Order of the Crown of Malaysia), which carries the title “Tan Sri”, one of Malaysia’s highest honors, and in that same year, was awarded a CBE for his services in promoting commercial and educational links between the UK and Malaysia.
Tony speaks about the fast-growing market in India and South East Asia. He demonstrates how the staff is always the first priority, and that creativity and innovation are critical.
"Tony was outstanding. He made a strong impression on the audience. I have not yet seen so many people flocking around a speaker after their session."