AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes named one of Time's 100 most influential people

SINGAPORE - AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people on Friday.

The annual list, now in it's 12th year, recognises the people who affect the world the most, Time said.

Mr Fernandes, 50, who had to handle the budget airline's first major air disaster last year, joined a range of personalities that include US President Barack Obama, pop star Taylor Swift, and economist Thomas Piketty. Mr Fernandes is apparently the only South-east Asian in this year's list.

Other Asians include India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun and Japanese author Haruki Murakami.

In a statement on Friday, Mr Fernandes said: "It's a tremendous honour to be included in Time's top 100 list - I was shocked when I first received the news but I am very proud and humbled."

The entry on Mr Fernandes in Time, written by Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, says: "People reveal their true selves in the worst of times. After learning that AirAsia Flight 8501 had gone missing, Tony Fernandes stilled the chaos by being himself - a family man and a business leader."

Last December, flight 8501 from Surabaya crashed in the Java Sea enroute to Singapore, killing all 162 people on board. It was operated by Indonesia AirAsia - the group's Jakarta-based affiliate.

Responding quickly, Mr Fernandes publicly took responsibility, visited victims' families, and vowed to find out what happened.

AirAsia is the largest low-cost carrier in Asia, flying to more than 90 destinations. Since its start in 2001, the airline has carried more than 280 million passengers and grown its fleet from just two aircraft to more than 190, with short-haul operations in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and India, and long-haul operations in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Mr Fernandes bought a then loss-making AirAsia from its Malaysian owner for a token of one ringgit (S$0.37) in 2001, along with over US$11 million (S$14.8 million) in debt.

chuimin@sph.com.sg