AirAsia cargo team suspended, under probe

PETALING JAYA (Sept 19, 2013): Five senior executives of the cargo arm of AirAsia Bhd and AirAsia X Bhd are said to be under internal investigation over alleged mismanagement, sources told SunBiz.

It is understood that the five key personnel, who make up the entire cargo team of the two low-cost airlines, have been suspended pending the outcome of the investigation. They include regional cargo head for AirAsia and AirAsia X Sathis Manoharen, who has served in his current capacity since July 2009, and its strategy and contracts senior manager of cargo Ahmad Zaki Zainal.

“Even the accounts executive handling the (cargo) division has been suspended,” a source close to the situation said, adding that the five executives have been suspended for some two months.

When contacted yesterday, an AirAsia spokesman declined to comment.

“We have a policy not to comment on internal matters,” he told SunBiz via email in response to queries on the matter.

A check on AirAsia Cargo’s website found that no updates or announcements have been made since early July this year.

The last news article quoting Sathis in his capacity as regional head of cargo for AirAsia and AirAsia X appeared on July 1, 2013. In the article, Sathis said the airlines’ cargo business was “as good as it can be”.

He also said that the group managed to grow tonnage by 47% in the first quarter of 2013 compared with the same period in 2012. He added that both AirAsia and AirAsia X were achieving double-digit growth in tonnage and yield.

These remarks were made just days before the entire cargo division was suspended, according to people in the know.

AirAsia and AirAsia X’s fleet currently consists of 120 Airbus 320s and 11 A330s, with four more to be delivered by the end of the year.

Single-item cargo limits for the airlines’ narrow-body A320 is 187.4 pounds and 9,656 pounds for its wide-body A330 planes.

A check on the professional profile of Ahmad Zaki on LinkedIn revealed that he has been with AirAsia since 2008. He started off providing strategic analysis and developed the five-year business plan for AirAsia’s new start-up company Japan AirAsia.

Later he joined the cargo division to help co-develop the AirAsia Cargo strategic business plan with Sathis that grew AirAsia’s cargo revenue from RM43 million to RM200 million per year.

The cargo division of AirAsia and AirAsia X has won a number of accolades over the years – the most recent one in June this year from Air Cargo Week, which awarded it with the World’s Best Customer Care Award 2013 for the third consecutive year.

Last year, the division bagged the Rising Star Carrier of The Year Award 2012 from Payload Asia.