We screwed up in Japan, says Tony Fernandes

AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes admits that the low-cost carrier failed in its ventures in Japan and Europe.

“Japan was a disaster. Our partner didn’t understand what we wanted,” said Fernandes at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit 2013 in Kuala Lumpur today.

AirAsia parted ways with Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) when it sold its 49% stake in AirAsia Japan to ANA in June this year.

Both airlines had clashed over management and operational differences followed by losses amounting to ¥3.5 billion (RM113 million).

Fernandes, 49, has publicly said that he wants AirAsia to re-enter the Japanese market and is on the lookout for financial partners.

“We’ve just got to look for the right one this time because we screwed up the last time,” he added.

He also spoke on the airline’s failed routes in Europe, citing multiple factors for the axing of the carrier’s European routes in March 2012.

“We pulled out of London because we had the wrong aircraft, the A340. The price of oil was US$80 (RM254) at the time. Then it went up to US$130 (RM413). With a four-engine aircraft, it was just not feasible,” Fernandes said, adding that the UK government’s green tax is “discriminatory against ultra-long-haul airlines”.

But Fernandes is keen to revive AirAsia’s previously axed routes, specifically to London.

“We’ve got to be in Europe. There’s a huge demand for London,” he said.

He said in June this year that the company was looking into commencing its flights to Europe once it receives its Airbus A350 aircraft, which are expected to be delivered beyond 2017 — a timeline that Fernandes says may be too late for the carrier to re-enter the European market.

“We may change the seating configuration and have business class, but we do have to fly to London,” he added.

He also rubbished rumours that low-cost carrier Malindo Air poses a threat to AirAsia, saying: “I have zero interest in Malindo… our competition is ourselves.”

Malindo is a new joint-venture between Lion Air, Indonesia’s low-cost carrier, and Malaysia’s National Aerospace and Defence Industries (NADI). The airline started operating in March this year.