31st July, 2012
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians should not be parochial on AirAsia’s decision to relocate its Asean base to Jakarta as it is a move to regionalise the no-frills airline, says AirAsia X Chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz.
She said AirAsia and its long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X, made the business decision to establish its hub in Indonesia, while retaining the low-cost airline’s headquarters in Malaysia.
In reality, Malaysians should be proud for its home-grown company to set up a hub in another country, she told Bernama.
“We are not a Malaysian airline for Malaysia, we are a regional airline. Indonesia is a big market on its own and we have to tell the world that we are really regional.
“This exercise is done by many other companies in the world. Just like how Malaysia attracts other multinationals to set up their regional hub here.
“We (AirAsia and AirAsia X) always advocate our companies and employees to go global and this is the time to do it. When we have an opportunity like this, we need the support of all Malaysians,” the former International Trade and Industry Minister said.
On June 13, AirAsia Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes announced that the low-fare airline was moving its Asean hub to Jakarta, drawing flak from several parties on the possibility that Malaysia might lose its position as the leading low-cost carrier hub in the region.
Fernandes, AirAsia’s co-founder, had said he would be moving to Indonesia to take charge of the airline’s Asean expansion programme, while Aireen Omar, the airline’s regional head of corporate finance and treasury, would head the operations in Malaysia.
Rafidah said that from an Asean base in Jakarta, AirAsia would be able to expand in Indonesia, the biggest economy in Southeast Asia, and later to other developing economies in the region.
“Who knows we might have a regional hub in West Asia, an office there to cater for countries like Iran or a base in East Asia for China.
“I am very sure that the move will impact AirAsia’s global branding very positively. Our headquarters is here and we are regionalising our offices. Nothing wrong in that,” she stressed.
Rafidah also said AirAsia and AirAsia X must now build on the airlines’ matured routes and make sure the routes continue to provide sustainable profit to ensure the income stream was not disrupted once the Asean Open Skies Policy comes into effect in 2015.
“While the matured routes bring in income, new sustainable routes must be found,” she said, adding that she was confident AirAsia can cope with the keen competition once the policy comes into force.
“The airline’s brand has been concretely built,” she added.