AirAsia needs no introduction in ASEAN, where it is the leading low-cost carrier, connecting people and places across 132 routes, 40 of which are offered by no other airline. In 2010, the Group, which includes affiliates AirAsia Thailand and AirAsia Indonesia, reinforced its leadership position with two remarkable milestones: flying its 100 millionth guest and breaking the RM1 billion profit barrier.
From an airline with two aircraft plying six routes in Malaysia in January 2002, AirAsia has soared in the last nine years to cover 65 destinations in 18 countries. Today, employing more than 8,000 staff and with a market capitalisation of just over RM7.06 billion (as at 31 December 2010), it is the only Truly ASEAN airline, serving the region's 600 million population from 10 hubs in three countries - Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Penang and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia; Bangkok and Phuket in Thailand; and Jakarta, Bali, Bandung and Surabaya in Indonesia.
In 2011, we introduced two hubs, Chiang Mai for AirAsia Thailand and Medan for AirAsia Indonesia. Singapore functions as a virtual hub where AirAsia features among the top 10 airlines in terms of contribution to passenger traffic. Further strengthening its ASEAN network, the Group in December 2010 signed an agreement to establish a Philippine-based low-cost affiliate, which is expected to be operational by end 2011.
The quest to democratise air travel began when Tune Air Sdn. Bhd. – founded in 2001 by Dato' Sri Dr. Tony Fernandes, Dato' Pahamin Ab. Rajab, Dato' Kamarudin Meranun and Dato' Aziz Bakar - bought over the loss-making, debt-riddled AirAsia from HI COM Holdings Berhad (now DRB-HICOM Berhad) for a token sum of RM1. The enterprising group quickly settled the airline's debts and set about rebranding and relaunching AirAsia as a low-fare carrier.
The Group's entire business model centres around a low-cost philosophy which requires its operations to be lean, simple and efficient. Several key strategies have been employed towards this effect, including:
- High Aircraft Utilisation
AirAsia focuses on high frequency and high turnaround of flights, both of which add to customer convenience and greater cost efficiencies. Its turnaround of 25 minutes is the fastest in the region.
- Low Fare, No Frills
This means no frequent flyer miles or airport lounges in exchange for lower fares. Guests have the choice of paying for in-flight meals, snacks and drinks.
- Point to Point Network
All short-haul AirAsia flights (four-hour flight radius or less) and medium- to long haul AirAsia X flights are non-stop, doing away with the need for human resources, physical infrastructure and facilities at transit locations.
In addition, a decision was made in December 2004 to convert the existing fleet of ageing Boeing B737s with the higher capacity yet more fuel-efficient, reliable and cost-efficient Airbus A320s. As a result, today, the Group boasts the largest and newest A320 fleet in the region. Of its 90 aircraft, 86 are A320s, and the Group has in its order book an additional 89 A320s to be delivered. The four remaining B737s in AirAsia Indonesia are to be phased out by 2012, following which there will be less duplication of manpower requirements and reduced need to stock maintenance parts.
Collectively, these strategies have established AirAsia as the lowest-cost airline in the world, with a cost/ASK (available seat kilometre) of US3.67c. This has been achieved without compromising safety. The highest priority is given to safe operations, and AirAsia complies with conditions asset by regulators in all the countries where it operates. The Group also partners with the most renowned maintenance providers to ensure its fleet is always in the best condition.
Innovative use of technology has played a key role in AirAsia's success story, beginning with online booking. It was the first airline in Asia to go ticketless -in March 2002 - allowing guests to pay for their bookings by credit card over the phone. Over the years, it has built on its IT platform to increase the ease of customer transactions as well as provide greater savings to the Group. In 2010, AirAsia unveiled its latest IT booking innovation in the form of New Skies, which allows customers to better manage their online bookings. With the advent of the social media, tools such as Facebook, Twitter and blogs have become integral to the Group's customer relationship initiatives. AirAsia is, in fact, recognised as the most popular airline in the region on Facebook in terms of fan base.
The spirit of innovation is also reflected in AirAsia's financial strategies. The company's spectacular turnaround within18 months of operations sealed the stamp of financial wizardry that has continued to help the airline grow and win accolades such as the 2010 Asiamoney's Best Managed Company.
While known for its no-frills approach, AirAsia is also synonymous with youthful energy and a cheeky sense of fun, as captured in its campaigns and branding strategies. The airline regularly sponsors sporting and entertainment events, and in 2010 launched AirAsiaRedTix.com, an online gateway to world class performances.
AirAsia is ultimately a people's airline. This is mirrored in numerous acts of generosity that show the management truly cares. In January 2010, the Group joined hands with UNICEF to raise RM438 million (US$128million) for relief efforts targeted at Haitians affected by the earthquake. The airline also runs an on-going Donate Your Loose Change campaign to help needy heart patients receive treatment at the National Heart Institute in Kuala Lumpur.
The Group's adherence to best practices has been recognised via numerous awards over the years. Perhaps most notably AirAsia has been voted the World's Best Low Cost Airline for two consecutive years, in 2009 and 2010. This award, from Skytrax, reflects the opinions of about 18 million travellers worldwide who were polled by the London-based aviation consultant. AirAsia feels proud of such endorsement and is committed to living up to guests' expectations by continuing to keep costs down while providing the highest levels of service and efficiency as it spreads its wings further and wider across the skies.