AirAsia in the eye of a Covid-19 storm

SINGAPORE – When Tony Fernandes acquired AirAsia nearly two decades ago, the then-music industry executive paid a mere 1 Malaysian ringgit (23 US cents) to take the bankrupt carrier off a state-owned conglomerate’s hands.

Against the odds, Fernandes lifted AirAsia into Southeast Asia’s largest budget carrier on a “Now everyone can fly” motto that pioneered the low-cost aviation industry by leveraging strategically into the region’s rapidly-emerging middle class.

But in a world now ill with Covid-19, the opposite is true: one of Asian aviation’s best-known brands now simply aims to stay aloft at a time when everyone, in fact, cannot fly. “This is by far the biggest challenge we have faced since we began in 2001,” Fernandes, AirAsia’s chief executive, said in a July 6 statement.