AirAsia “is close to” launching a new airline unit — with an announcement due in the next two months — amid a broad restructuring of the airline business which sees the appointment of a new independent board of directors.
The announcement follows the name change of AirAsia Group to Capital A in late-January to reflect its “new core business strategy as an investment holding company” with wide-ranging interests.
As part of the reorganisation, AirAsia’s airline units have been brought under the AirAsia Aviation Group, which will allow it to “focus expansion of the business within the larger ecosystem”.
Asked by FlightGlobal for further details on the new airline unit, Group A chief Tony Fernandes was tight-lipped, except to say that AirAsia Aviation Group was “very focused on ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and that the group was “back on the growth trail”.
“In due course, we will announce it. I think it will be within the next two months,” he adds.
The low-cost airline group has units in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, as well as the Philippines. It also has a joint venture in India.
It was previously reported that the airline group was looking at Cambodia as a prospective market, and had been toying for more than a year with the idea of launching a new airline in the Indochina region.
At the media briefing on 11 January, Fernandes remains buoyant about recovery prospects, stating that he was confident “things will be the way they were pre-Covid” by the fourth-quarter of the year.
The group’s airline units will “continue to push [for] inter-ASEAN” growth, as international borders in the region start reopening. He also notes that domestic flying “has certainly grown much larger” in recent months.
“In some ways we are reborn, because it’s a ‘re-beginning’…I think in some ways Covid-19 has given us a second chance to go out there and really capture a huge market share, which we’re tremendously excited about,” says Fernandes.
He also points out that “even if China does not open its borders” this year, the airline group “can easily cover” the lost travel demand “with other territories”. Chinese authorities have stated that a full international border reopening is only likely from 2023.
FERNANDES SITS OUT AIRLINE BOARD
AirAsia Aviation Group also announced the appointment of Jamaludin Ibrahim as independent non-executive chairman, as part of the creation of an independent board of directors.
Fernandes told reporters on 11 February that he, as well as Capital A chairman Kamarudin Meranun, will not be on the airline group board, to allow it to be “a completely independent board”.
Jamaludin, currently the chairman of Malaysian government linked company Prasarana Malaysia, was formerly head of telecommunications company Axiata. AirAsia Aviation Group says it will announce in due course the members of the board.
Adds Capital A: “This provides a dedicated focus on the aviation businesses to support sustainable growth including setting up new joint ventures in the future. The plan is to assemble a balanced mix of industry leading professionals with diverse backgrounds and complementary skills. It is envisaged that the board will comprise some of the best in their respective areas including well known figures from the various countries it operates in to ensure diversity in nationalities, skills and gender.”
On whether the airline group will be listed — like its parent company Capital A — Fernandes says it will be up to the new board of directors to decide.