UPDATE: AirAsia group says Q2 was improved; Airline apologises for Thai chairman’s outburst

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AirAsia Group said its operating statistics for the second quarter of the 2021 financial year were improved during the quarter. All four key operating entities of AirAsia posted year-on-year (YoY) improvements during the quarter, on the back of a low base in the corresponding quarter last year as the group’s fleet were hibernated for the most part of 2Q2020 following the hit of the COVID-19 pandemic since late 1Q2020.

As for quarter-on-quarter (QoQ) performance, AirAsia Philippines saw a 2 percent increase in number of passengers carried and 4 percentage points (ppts) increase in load factor to reach 78 percent, while AirAsia Indonesia’s load factor increased by 11 ppts QoQ. AirAsia said it remains committed to strengthening its domestic foothold while awaiting positive developments on international air travel. Expectation of high vaccination rates in ASEAN countries by the end of this year is lending confidence on upcoming recovery, enhanced by the group’s short-haul model in addition to leaner and more stabilised operations.

AirAsia Malaysia’s operations remained constrained QoQ due to a lockdown and interstate travel restrictions imposed from January 2021. AirAsia Malaysia carried 64 percent higher number of passengers YoY on 54 percent higher capacity, subsequently resulting in a 4 ppts increase to a healthy load factor of 64 percent. The ongoing subdued operations are expected to persist until Malaysia reaches herd immunity by the fourth quarter of this year. The government has recently set a new target of vaccinating all adults by October 2021.

AirAsia Indonesia posted substantial YoY growth against the same quarter last year. Though the number of passengers carried showed a mild 1 percent dip QoQ, load factor grew by 11 ppts to 67 percent in 2Q2021 due to more stringent capacity management. AirAsia Indonesia was operating approximately 70 percent of pre-pandemic domestic capacity in May 2021 and demonstrated strong signs of recovery before it had to enter hibernation mode in early July in support of the containment efforts by the government as infection cases increased.

AirAsia Philippines’ strong rebound seen in 1Q2021 further increased in 2Q2021, posting a 2 percent higher number of passengers carried QoQ and 4 ppts higher load factor to record a solid 78 percent. Monthly breakdown showed that load factor was as high as 83 percent in June 2021, boosted by active capacity management. This was despite running a limited number of charter and passenger flights due to community quarantine restrictions and despite flying only from its Manila hub.

AirAsia Thailand more than doubled the number of passengers carried YoY and reported a 9 ppts increase in load factor to 61 percent in 2Q2021, boosted by higher demand during the Songkran festival in April 2021 and on the back of low base effect in the same quarter last year. On a QoQ basis, despite having successfully resumed all domestic routes by the end of 1Q2021, AirAsia Thailand’s recovery was short-lived due to the new COVID-19 wave that began in mid-April 2021. AirAsia Thailand posted a 26 percent QoQ decline in passengers carried, most significantly in June. Nevertheless, load factor was held firm at 78 percent in June, attributed to active capacity management.

Airline forced to apologise for Thai chairman’s outburst
Asia Aviation Public Company Limited (AAV) Executive Chairman Tassapon Bijleveld, who is also the chairman of Thai AirAsia, reportedly humiliated an employee when she was asking a question during a virtual town hall meeting, according to media reports. The video shows the female employee was speaking when Bijleveld suddenly interrupted and asked, “What’s your f***ing question, come on.” The unnamed female employee attempted to ask again, and he interjected with: “What’s your question, come on. Don’t talk a lot, too much to talk.”

The incident reportedly happened earlier this month and has since gone viral on social media with one user calling the interjection “disappointing” while others called the video “disgraceful”, “despicable”, and “absolutely incomprehensible and vile”.

As a result of the awkward exchange, AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes apologised, although he can be seen smiling throughout the exchange and did not explain why he did nothing in response to the chairman’s insults. Fernandes said only that “this is not the culture we want in AirAsia. What he did was wrong and he apologised…Of course the language used was not right but I know Tassapon…He would say the same thing to a male staffer,” Fernandes said, as if that made it OK for the chairman to act as he did.

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