Sunday, February 22, 2009

Love Affair With Air Asia

There's enough vitriol spewed over the last few weeks in Malaysian politics to make one nauseous. Well, it's a Sunday, so I thought I should have a change in pace and blog about my love affair, well, one with Air Asia. (So don't expect to find me caught on camera a la CSL ;-))

I wrote an article a few weeks back which was published in The NutGraph (which they re-titled "Loving Air Asia")
I have the greatest admiration for Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, and I'm not abashed to loudly proclaim the fact that I'm a fan of Air Asia, and what it has done not only for travel in Malaysia, but for the entire region. A former colleague of mine once told me, if there's anyone who deserved his datukship, its Tony Fernandes.

Air Asia's mantra of “Now Everyone Can Fly” has really taken millions places, many of whom have never flown before. The airline is of course not without criticism, one of the most ticklish was the perversion of its motto to “Now Everyone Can Wait” for the frequency of flight delays, particularly in its early years. I've often been a victim of Air Asia delays myself, but it's a price and risk I'm willing to pay, in exchange for the affordability it affords me in travelling. After all, I've also suffered delays on trips with either the Malaysian Airline System (MAS) or the world renown Singapore Airlines (SIA).
Now, I know there are many out there who have negative sentiments against Air Asia, some of whom are my Pakatan Rakyat fellow Members of Parliament, especially over the recent issue of the still-born Labu "KLIA East" airport. But if you read my story, you'd know that my "love affair" is personal. I further believe that since I don't hold back much when "whacking" things I find distasteful (e.g., Barisan Nasional), I should also do the same for things which I really like, even if its against the grain.  You can read the full story at The NutGraph here.

I do have a part II to the above story, focusing a little more on the KLIA-East but given all the other urgent and critical things happening around us today, you may still have to wait a little before the second part sees the light of day ;-)

I'm also a big big fan of Tony Fernandes as a real entrepreneur, and I'll put him right up there with the best in the region. In fact, anyone with real ambitions to become an entrepreneur in Malaysia (I for one, had only half-ambitions, prefering early retirement ;-)), should emulate his "gung-ho" spirit. Unlike many of our country's pseudo-pretend-entrepreneurs who rely on government concession and oblique guarantees to become multi-millionaires, Tony made it big with no government guaranteed passenger traffic, protected air routes, monopoly license or government underwritten loans.

His "politics" could of course do with some improvements (speaking at Shahrizat's campaign trail(?!) Faint!) but everyone makes an honest mistake now and then ;-) After all, I was sympathetic to Pak Lah at the start of his reign, and Jeff Ooi, my fellow compatriot today, even campaigned in 2004 for BN!

For everyone's information, I don't own any shares in Air Asia although I watch over its performance. I have Tony Fernandes' handphone number, but we're not drinking buddies. I don't fly free on Air Asia although they sponsored a ticket each to Macau and Bali for my Charity Golf Tournament in October last year (Tony, I'm sure you can do better than that!!) And Tony is certainly no crony of Tony's for there's nothing I can offer except to buy air tickets at bargain basement prices. ;-)
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