2011/11/14

AirAsia's Fernandes plans new premium carrier

KUALA LUMPUR, November 14, 2011 (AFP) - AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes revealed Monday his plans to start a new super-premium regional airline in partnership with national carrier Malaysia Airlines.

"Here is another idea that has come out of AirAsia which will create more more value, more jobs and more business.

"If an idea like this does materialise... it will definitely involve Malaysia Airlines," he told reporters.

Fernandes said the proposed short-haul carrier would cater largely to business travellers, among others, who need to travel across the region quickly.

"For me as a traveller, time is very precious. If you can create a product where you do not need to wait one hour before you check in and fly out and Malaysia can be the home of this idea," he said.

News reports last week said that Fernandes would launch a super-premium full-service carrier in May next year to rival Qantas' upcoming carrier RedQ.

The Sun daily reported that the airline, likely to be called Caterham Jet, would begin operations from an airport near the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur.

Fernandes declined to elaborate on his business plan for the new airline but insisted that it was a lucrative aviation business segment which will create more jobs and business opportunities in Malaysia.

"Yes, there is an idea. There is a wonderful opportunity for people who don't want to queue up but want to have a private jet experience," he said.

Fernandes also said the new airline would allow the loss-making flag carrier Malaysia Airlines to boost its revenue and compete directly with its regional rival Singapore Airlines.

"If this idea can work, Malaysia Airlines can get one up against SIA because SIA does not have this kind of first class premium service in the short haul sector," he said.

The Sun report said proposed routes for the new airline include Bangkok, Jakarta and Singapore using Bombardier CRJ aircraft.

Fernandes, who is also Formula One Team Lotus principal, bought British sports car company Caterham Cars earlier this year.

Malaysia-based AirAsia has become one of the airline industry's biggest success stories after Fernandes acquired the then-failing company a decade ago.

Its 2010 full-year net profit nearly doubled to 1.07 billion ringgit ($340 million) compared to 2009.