Several days exposed to the US investor community has not phased AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes one bit. In fact, when Airline Business caught up with the Malaysian low-cost carrier pioneer last week, he enjoyed the experience.
"It's refreshing," he says, sporting his trademark red AirAsia cap ("it's free advertising"). "American investors really do understand the low-cost model. Asian analysts are still grappling with it."
After a set of rather decent quarterly results, Fernandes visited investors and analysts in Boston, New York and Washington to tell the AirAsia story. About 20-30% of the free floating AirAsia shares are held by US investors.
Investors put AirAsia in the same bracket as Ryanair - it is viewed as an internationally interesting low-cost player. "They are looking for the next one in that league. They are interested in AirAsia because of our growth."
One of the key questions for Fernandes has been the long-haul, low-cost launch he is involved with. Investors are worried that AirAsia X will prove a distraction. Fernandes has been at pains to say this will not be the case.
"My job is 100% focused on making AirAsia the Ryanair and Southwest of Asia - I don't want to be distracted," he says. "It is key for me to ringfence it."
Fernandes is however working on bringing in a team of industry outsiders to run AirAsia X, which is proposing to fly from Malaysia to destinations in Europe and elsewhere. "We don't want people with any preconceptions," he says.
"If it works it will bring a nice feed into AirAsia, and promotes the brand in places we don't go," he says.
AirAsia X came about when Fernandes and his business partners were approached by the Malaysian government about the country's expanding low-cost market. "It got me thinking," he says. Along with his partners, including ex-Ryanair executive Conor McCarthy, "we found a model we thought could work". He stresses the word could.
"I was very clear it should not be done by AirAsia. It would be a very poor use of capital if it was done by AirAsia. We've got to paint the sky red and that's my focus."
But Fernandes was tempted. He had made some money from AirAsia, and rather than leave the concept to someone else, he thought why not? "It's speculative," he says, and if that ends in failure so be it.
But if it flops it won't be the end of the world. "If it works, great. It could create something new."