AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes has been named Forbes Asia’s ‘Businessman of the Year’.Fernandes is the first Malaysian and Southeast Asian to receive the award.
The hugely popular icon of aviation is credited for democratising air travel in the region and for growing a Malaysian company into a highly successful global brand. Forbes Asia’s editor, Tim Ferguson, said in a press release: “The competition was tough, including from leaders of Forbes Asia’s Fabulous 50 companies. Although several mainland Chinese entrepreneurs fully came into their own this year, in general they are still excelling in a single national market that is subject to domestic booms and busts.
Fernandes is expanding his business outward.” Fernandes has transformed Asia’s travel landscape since taking over the then loss-making AirAsia in 2001. He redefined air travel by sticking true to AirAsia’s slogan of ‘Now Everyone Can Fly’ and offered low fares coupled with premium products and services, a hit combination that has attracted guests from across the socio-economic spectra. AirAsia has, in less than nine years, flown more than 100 million guests, many of whom never dreamed that they could one day afford to fly.
Since taking over the helm, he turned the airline into Asia’s biggest low-cost carrier and expanded its base from Malaysia to across the Asean region, home to 600 million people. He grew AirAsia phenomenally fast – it now has 140 routes to 23 countries, a fleet of close to 100 and a staff that is 8,000-strong.
Aside from connecting communities in the Asean region and neighbouring Asian countries, AirAsia also connects the region to, through low-cost long-haul affiliate AirAsia X, more destinations in Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, boosting national economies through travel and tourism.
Fernandes’ businesses share the underlying philosophy of “serving the underserved.” His other business interests, which operate under the umbrella of Tune Group, include Tune Hotels, Tune Money, Tune Talk, Tune Sports, Tune Tones, Tune Studios and Kuala Lumpur Education City (KLEC).
KLEC is bringing into Malaysia Epsom College, which is one of the UK’s premier boarding schools. He is the team principal of Lotus Racing F1 team. Fernandes also founded the Asean Basketball League, which is the first professional basketball league in the Asean region.