19 June 2012

By Kang Siew Li sunbiz@thesundaily.com

AirAsia Bhd has named Aireen Omar as executive director and CEO of its Malaysian operations from July 1, freeing up its co-founder and group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes to focus less on day-to-day matters in its home market and more on the broader expansion of the budget airline in Asean.

Aireen has been appointed executive director and CEO of AirAsia
Aireen Omar has been appointed executive director and CEO of AirAsia‘s Malaysian operations.

Aireen, 38, joins CEOs of AirAsia’s affiliates namely Tassapon Bijleveld of Thai AirAsia, Captain Dharmadi of AirAsia Indonesia, Marianne Hontiveros of AirAsia Philippines and Kazuyuki Iwakata of AirAsia Japan ?all of whom directly report to Fernandes.

Aireen is currently regional head of corporate finance and treasury at AirAsia Bhd. She joined AirAsia in January 2006 as director of corporate finance. She was, among others, instrumental in securing the financing of the airline’s fleet expansion.

In early 2009, treasury functions were added to Aireen’s portfolio and later the same year investor relations and fuel procurement responsibilities.

Prior to joining AirAsia, Aireen worked in the financial industry for some nine years, including stints with Deutsche Bank Securities Inc in New York, Maybank Investment Bank Bhd and Bumiwerks Capital Management.

With Aireen’s appointment, Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun will be redesignated from group CEO and deputy group CEO and president of group finance, treasury, corporate finance and legal, respectively, to non-executive directors of AirAsia Bhd effective June 30.

Fernandes and Kamarudin will be based in Jakarta, where the airline has set up a regional base called AirAsia Asean. Fernandes will lead the regional team of about 20 people there, which include senior management from its Malaysian operations.

They include its regional head of Asean affairs and government relations, V. Raman Narayanan, group CFO Andrew Littledale, regional head of commercial Kathleen Tan, regional head of operations and planning Bo Lingam, regional head of engineering Anaz Ahmad Tajuddin, and regional head of business development Captain Chin Nyok San.

“AirAsia Asean will provide us with an environment free of the pressures of day-to-day operations and the necessary ‘fire fighting’ that accompanies these endeavours, and allow our senior managers the space, time and interaction so vital to keep us flying in our second decade,” Fernandes told a news conference to announce the new appointments here yesterday.

He said the regional team’s immediate focus will be to lay out plans for AirAsia’s affiliates in Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan, besides looking to expand beyond Asean, including China, South Korea and India.

“My dream is to make AirAsia as well-known a brand as Coca-Cola,” he added.

“It is obvious he (Fernandes) is going to where the market is. Indonesia is the largest market for low-cost carriers like AirAsia in Asean. AirAsia can also take advantage of the lower cost structure in Indonesia (compared with Malaysia),” Shukor Yusof, a Singapore-based aviation analyst for Standard & Poors, told SunBiz yesterday.

He said AirAsia will be taking on Lion Air in the short-haul market in Indonesia. Lion Air is currently the largest player there, operating 87 Boeing aircraft with delivery of another 12 this year.

“It makes sense to leave a market (Malaysia) that has become a bit saturated, where the economy is growing at an annual rate of 4-5%, compared with Indonesia’s economic growth which is much faster and sustainable for at least the next 10 years,” he added.

AirAsia had said locating its regional base in Jakarta is also likely to have the beneficial effect of helping raise the profile and branding of AirAsia Indonesia, which is heading for a listing on the Jakarta Stock Exchange by year-end.

Meanwhile, Aireen revealed that some of her immediate tasks will be to prepare AirAsia Malaysia for the Asean open sky in 2015, maintain or increase its share of 60% in the domestic air travel market and 40% in the international market, as well as lead the airline’s negotiations with Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd on the new low-cost carrier terminal (klia2).

Source: www.thesundaily.my

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