Tony Fernanded, AirAsia Group CEO, being interviewed by Maryann Simson, director of APEX Media

Image: Caroline Ku

The latest episode of APEX Insider sees APEX Media travel to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to find out more about AirAsia from Group CEO Tony Fernandes.

APEX Media recently spent the day filming at RedQ, AirAsia’s 193,750-square-foot head office located just outside of its main hub at Terminal 2 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, known as klia2. As well as getting a tour of the ultra-modern building, APEX Media interviewed AirAsia Group CEO, Tony Fernandes.

Fernandes talked about the journey from 18 years ago, when he paid about 25 cents for two aircraft, 200 staff and millions of dollars of debt, to AirAsia’s current status as the world’s 13th largest airline, with 270 aircraft. The secret sauce? Being people-led. “If we didn’t have this culture … we wouldn’t have had the buy-in,” Fernandes explained.

This ethos means that despite its low fares, AirAsia has always strived to create an enjoyable passenger experience, whether through food (AirAsia is opening its first fast food restaurant in Malaysia soon), high-speed in-flight Wi-Fi or customer service. “Some low-cost brands, not just in aviation, almost find it gimmicky to be rude, but I say to my staff, ‘it doesn’t cost anything to smile’,” Fernandes said.

Not content with AirAsia being “just an airline,” Fernandes has set his sights on turning it into “transport mobility company.” And right now, he’s focusing on a social e-commerce venture which makes shipping easier for small businesses. He developed the idea for the same reason as he started AirAsia, “to do something for the little man.”

This episode of APEX Insider was made possible by the support of Inmarsat.