Capital A Berhad (Air Asia) chief executive officer Tony Fernandes has visited the Philippines and was impressed with the way the Manila International Airport Authority handles the country’s premier gateway.
Fernandes, who arrived last Sunday, said despite the technical glitches and other problems that confronted the NAIA recently, the MIAA managed it well.
“Wow, NAIA is much better organized. So we must give credit to the management. I mean brownouts happen, power failures happen but I can tell you as someone who owned an airline for 22 years, this is the best I have ever seen NAIA, and I want to focus on the positive, you
know on-time performance is 86%, and that has a lot to do with the airport,” he said in a press briefing at Air Asia Philippines Red Point HQ in NAIA Terminal 3.
Fernandes is referring to the Labor Day 8-hour brownout and the airspace shutdown on New year’s Day that both resulted in the cancelation of hundreds of flights.
“I got to say, give credit where the credit is due. Sometimes you Filipinos like to focus on the negative. As an outsider and an insider, I want to congratulate NAIA, and I feel there’s a lot of energy happening in the private sector in Cebu, good talks about Bohol, Puerto Prinsesa, etc., so you know – I’m optimistic. That’s a long answer to a short question,” he said.
“I want to tell Filipinos that it’s easy to complain, right? But the managers of NAIA didn’t build that airport, didn’t inherit that airport, I got to say, that I want to be positive and I’m really being positive, I’m saying what I believe.”
When asked about his personal experience with privately-operated and government-operated airports, Fernandes replied:
“I’m obviously a big fan of privatization – privatization with control – because don’t forget there are monopolies as well, so if you give a private operator a monopoly and allow him to charge whatever he wants. That’s also not good. But I think it’s good to have a balance, and I think Philippines has that balance. There’s a lot of airports that are privately owned, except I have no problem working with either. As I have just said, NAIA has fought better.”
“But I think you have to have a mix – you have to have a mix – and I’m in full support of private operators, have no problem with cabin operators – but you know – it’s like gambling on airlines and private-owned airlines, right? I have very strong views of that. So as long as it’s run profitably, run efficiently, and run with people in bind – that is like people that comes first – doesn’t matter who runs it, right? But I figured balance is always a good thing.”
Fernandes also commented on the worldwide aircraft supply shortage issue. He said Air Asia had already “ordered more than 400 planes.”
“If they don’t deliver those planes, then we’re in trouble, but at least we have an order, we have an order book. So that order book starts next year with a delivery of five A321s over the next few years.”
On the issue of Air Asia Philippines ownership, Fernandes said they will make the proper announcement in the proper time.
“I’ve stuck to the script, all you will get from me is honesty and transparency. And it’s not just about the good things, right? The good things are that we are alive, we saved everyone’s job, we’re going to recruit. My chief pilot just asked me about his retirement plan, and I’m going to deliver on that as well. I’m going to deliver the money we owe to the people, and I’m going to deliver to the Philippines.”