In news from Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia Group Bhd reportedly has plans to rehire the employees it had to retrench last year once the airline business starts to pick up.
Recognising that having to terminate the services of some 2,000 employees last year was a tragedy, group chief executive officer (CEO) Tan Sri Tony Fernandes has vowed to rehire all of them and is confident that the low-cost carrier will be able to do that.
AirAsia Lost 2,000 Employees
“We had the tragedy of losing 2,000 staff through Covid-19. Before I retire, I must make sure that I hire everyone back,” Mr. Fernandes was quoted as saying by theedgemarkets.com.
Speaking virtually at Reimagining Malaysia Assets (RESET) 2021 conference held on Wednesday, the AirAsia Group CEO said, “That is my goal and I am very confident we can do that when flying resumes, supported by our other businesses.”
In October last year, AirAsia and its long-haul sister company AirAsia X Bhd (AAX) confirmed the retrenchment of 10% of their 24,000-strong workforce, recognising that the aviation sector would face difficulties in recovering in the near future due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr. Fernandes said AirAsia had been built on change management, which made it easy for its employees to move jobs.
“Change management is a collective term for all approaches to prepare, support and help individuals, teams and organisations in making organisational changes. We were the first [ASEAN] airline to have female pilots, which had never been done in ASEAN’s history. So, the culture in AirAsia sets the foundation for change and that is what we are very good at. For an airline of our size, we have our own union; no other airlines of our size in the world have unions,” he said.
Mr. Fernandes noted that AirAsia’s survival is supported by the flatness of its structure, its meritocracy practice and the ability to manage changes. He emphasised that the most important aspect of AirAsia is talent.
“You can do anything you want with the right structure, environment and, most importantly, the right people. I think that is our strength. We may not have the right amount of cash but we certainly make up for it with [the right] talent, people, passion and the ability to believe that we can do anything,” he added.
Reskilling and Retraining Partnership
The AirAsia Group CEO added had also established the Redbeat Academy in partnership with Google as part of its aspiration to reskill and retrain its employees in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0).
Hosted by Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas), the RESET 2021 is a four-day virtual conference from Tuesday. The event is organised by the Society of Petroleum Engineers Kuala Lumpur Section, in collaboration with the Malaysian Oil and Gas Services Council and Informa Markets in Malaysia.
Mr. Fernandes, who came up with the tagline “Now everyone can fly”, has often described how, thanks to the internet, AirAsia was able to grow at a tremendous pace, going from 200,000 passengers in the company’s first year to 55 million last year.
The Malaysian airline’s net loss widened to 2.44 billion ringgit ($589.1 million) for the three months ended Dec. 31 from 384.4 million ringgit in the corresponding quarter in 2019. Sales also fell to 267.4 million ringgit from 3.23 billion ringgit previously, it said in a filing to the local stock exchange.
The fourth-quarter performance brought the airline’s full-year net loss to 5.1 billion ringgit from a loss of 315.8 million ringgit the year before, marking the worst it has ever recorded, according to a Nikkei Asia comparison with past results. Revenue fell to 3.14 billion ringgit from 11.86 billion ringgit posted in 2019.
Mr. Fernandes, has been upbeat about the future and said recovery was in sight. “With vaccination programs accelerating around the world, improved testing capabilities, the likely introduction of global digital health passports, formation of leisure travel bubbles in the region and contactless procedures already in place for AirAsia, we are very optimistic that international air travel will resume in the second half of 2021, leading to our full recovery within the next two years,” he said in a separate statement.
AirAsia has said that pandemic lockdowns announced in Malaysia for October and November also weighed on revenue in the fourth quarter.