Tony Fernandes is Group CEO of Air Asia, an entrepreneur who introduced Asia’s first budget no-frills airline, AirAsia, with the tagline “Now everyone can fly”. The fact that the airline launched shortly after September 11, in 2001 lead many to believe it could never succeed. But as he tells his audiences, his mottos are “Believe the Unbelievable, Dream the Impossible and Don’t Take No for An Answer”.
He turned the bankrupt carrier into the World’s Best Low-Cost Airline (Skytrax’s coveted award for four years in a row 2009-2012) and has revolutionised the aviation industry in Asean. From its birth in Malaysia, AirAsia has now grown into a regional airline group that includes the short-haul carriers AirAsia Malaysia, AirAsia Thailand, AirAsia Indonesia, AirAsia Philippines and AirAsia Japan; the long-haul carrier AirAsia X; and the new regional base AirAsia asean. AirAsia asean, officially launched in August 2012 and located in Jakarta, is entrusted with crafting group-wide strategies and polices. AirAsia Group flies more than 150 routes to 89 destinations, 57 of which are in ASEAN and the rest in Japan, China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Australia. AirAsia provides employment for 10,000 people from across the region and beyond.
Tony obtained his early education in Epsom College, UK and pursued his studies in Accounting from the London School of Economics. He started his career as the Financial Controller at Virgin Communications London from 1987-1989 and Senior Financial Analyst at Warner Music International London from 1989 to 1992. Tony was admitted as an Associate Member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants in 1991 and became a Fellow Member in 1996. He was admitted as a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) in 2008. Upon his return to Malaysia in 1992, he became the youngest managing director of Warner Music (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd. He subsequently became the South East Asian regional vice-president for Warner Music Group until 2001. When Time Warner Inc announced its merger with America Online Inc., Fernandes left to pursue his dream of starting a budget no-frills airline.
Tony also founded the Tune Group whose aim is “to innovate and revolutionize the way services are made available and to employ efficient Web-based technologies to reach and engage our customers”. In 2007, Tony again created a “first” in Asia by starting a hotel chain, Tune Hotels, based on the no-frills concept. The first Tune Hotel was opened in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, and now has 26 Tune Hotels in operation across Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and UK.
Away from purely business, he is president of the Asian Basketball League- the only professional regional basketball league in ASEAN, run by Tune Sports. In 2009 Tune Group revived the Lotus Racing F1 team before renaming it Caterham F1 team in 2011. In August 2011, he was unveiled as the majority shareholder of English soccer Premier League’s Queens Park Rangers, where is is also chairman of QPR Holdings Ltd.
Throughout his career, Tony has received many awards. He was 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 honours, and in that same year, he was awarded a CBE for his services in promoting commercial and educational links between the UK and Malaysia. In 2010 he was awarded Asia Businessman of the Year by Forbes. In 2006 he was named the winner of Airline Business Strategy Award for Regional and Low Cost Leadership by Airline Business and the Master Entrepreneur category of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year – Malaysia. He also received the 2006/07 ‘The Brand Laureate’ Brand Personality for his exemplary performance, dedication and contribution towards the aviation industry in Malaysia. In recognition of his services rendered to the betterment of the nation and community and in France he has been given “Officier of the Legion d’honneur” for his outstanding contributions to the aviation industry.
Recognised for his unique leadership and entrepreneurial skills, Tony speaks about believing that staff is the first priority, and that creativity and innovation in business are crucial.
- Talent & Innovation driving business success
- Delivering Services at Prices everyone can afford