When Airline Business first received the news that AirAsia, the Asia-Pacific's pioneering low-cost airline brand, was to become the official low-fare airline for UK Premier League football team Manchester United, we were, as the slang phase goes: "Gob-smacked." Just what is a carrier with operations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore doing in bed with a British football club?
A glance at the AirAsia press release offers a few clues: "The partnership enables AirAsia to kick off with innovative marketing and creative sponsorship activities," says the carrier. "As the official low fare airline for Manchester United, AirAsia would collaborate with the club to mutually promote its presence in Europe and to the 3.6 billion populations in Asia." The value of the deal has not been announced, but is said to be in the region of ｣2 million ($3.6 million).
Some might remain to be convinced about the commercial logic of the deal for AirAsia. But who cares about commerce sometimes. We're sure that on 10th September, when the deal was unveiled to the 68,000 spectators at Man Utd's local derby against Manchester City, the carrier's ebullient head Tony Fernandes would have temporarily forgotten the dollars and cents rationale for the deal and was concentrating on the pure, unashamed joy of football.
The first photo shows Tony Fernandes with Mancheter United commercial director Andy Anson, while the second shows, from left to right, British football legend and Manchester United director Sir Bobby Charlton, Tony Fernandes, Datuk Azalina Othman Said (Minister of Sports & Youth, Malaysia), Kamarudin Meranun (executive director, AirAsia), and Raja Azmi (chief financial officer, AirAsia).