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I read an article about Tony Fernandes, the CEO of AirAsia, in The Economist today that got me thinking. Thinking about the last few articles I’ve written about United Airlines, RyanAir and Southwest Airlines – on how they make money off their customers – what what works and what doesn’t. There’re a lot of airlines in the US and Europe can learn from Tony Fernandes and AirAsia (+ Azran and AirAsiaX). Here’s how the article in The Economist ended. “Mr Fernandes says that he came to the industry with no preconceptions, but found it rigidly compartmentalized and dysfunctional. He wanted AirAsia to reflect his own unstuffy, open and cheerful personality. He is rarely seen without his baseball cap, open-neck shirt and jeans, and he is proud that the firm’s lack of hierarchy (very unusual in Asia) means anyone can rise to do anyone else’s job. AirAsia employs pilots who started out as baggage handlers and stewards; for his part, Mr Fernandes also practises what he preaches. Every month he spends a day as a baggage-handler; every two months, a day as cabin crew; every three months, a day as a check-in clerk. He has even established a “culture department” to “pass the message and hold parties”.” I wonder when Glenn Tilton last flew Economy Class on United Airlines and when Michael O’leary helped load the baggage on RyanAir…if they did, they probably would learn not just a lot more about their employees, but also their customers, don’t you think? I wonder why is it that the concept of servant leadership is lacking in the airline industry? Especially in the Western world. We know that exceptions like Southwest exist, but why don’t others do it too, when they see this working out well? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
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Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco. Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others. Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities Tony Fernandes
Author // Eithne Jones
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Tony Fernandes is a Malaysian entrepreneur who introduced the first budget no-frills airline, AirAsia, to Malaysians with the tagline “Now everyone can fly”. He has since founded the Tune Group of companies. Tony Fernandes founded Tune Air Sdn Bhd in 2001, with a vision to make air travel more affordable to Malaysians. With that in mind, Tony and his three partners bought over AirAsia from its owner DRB-Hicom. Tune Air’s initial project was to remodel AirAsia into a low fare no frills carrier after successful low fare airlines such as U.S.-based Southwest Airlines and Dublin-based Ryanair and create a new aviation product in Malaysia. Under Tony’s leadership, the fledging airline with a RM40 million debt became a thriving business. The airline repaid all debts and has been in a profitable position from the first day of operation. In less than 3 years, AirAsia grew from 2 modest Boeing 737-300 to 30 and is now operating over 100 domestic and international daily flights from hubs in KLIA, Johor Bahru, Bangkok and Jakarta. Tony obtained his early education in Epsom College, UK and pursued his studies in Accounting from the London School of Economics....