AirAsia sees recovery in 3 months

The first group of foreign visitors arrives at Suvarnabhumi International airport on Nov 1, the first day of Thailand’s reopening to fully inoculated tourists from 63 nations. Wichan Charoenkiatpakul

AirAsia Group predicts the aviation business will return to normal within three months on condition that more borders in the region reopen with no quarantine and RT-PCR test required.

AirAsia Group chief executive Tony Fernandes said the group already has planes and workforce in place as demand has risen, such as for Langkawi’s reopening where AirAsia sold more than 300,000 tickets.

“If borders reopen tomorrow with no quarantine and RT-PCR test, we will be back to normal by three months,” he said.

However, the reopening largely depends on decisions by each government which need to be brave enough to live with Covid-19 as they did with Sars and other diseases in the past, particularly after vaccines are administered globally and Covid medicines are being developed.

“Asia-Pacific is behind Europe and the US. But I am optimistic as Singapore, Thailand and more have started to reopen,” Mr Fernandes said.

There is also progress in the airline traffic after borders were unlocked as the number of flights recently rebounded to 700 from 66 in September.

He said the group will take about 6-9 months to get back to pre-Covid levels as China maintains a zero-Covid tolerance policy and will be the last destination to reopen.

Tourism in the region is at risk of losing more staff without recovery and reopening initiatives because workers will find other jobs and not return to the industry.

This situation will pose a great challenge for employment, particularly for hotels and theme parks.

Mr Fernandes said the group is committed to resuming the normal wage rate for its employees within next month, while those furloughed should be back to their positions by January.

He said today is the beginning of the end of nearly two years of Covid-19.

During that time, AirAsia has built three new digital companies and an engineering company.

“There is a long way to go, but we are back,” said Mr Fernandes.

Even though the group plans to increase 50% revenue contribution from digital businesses by 2025, aviation remains the core business which will continue to grow.

However, lifestyle offerings in digital business will grow at a faster rate, said Colin Currie, the newly-appointed chief commercial officer of AirAsia Group.

He said data will be used to help understand consumers’ needs and create a consumer-centric strategy.

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