Tomorrow will mark 15 years since AirAsia X first took to the skies, with its first flight from Kuala Lumpur to Australia’s Gold Coast operating on November 2nd, 2007. However, it will mark this occasion without Tony Fernandes being its Group CEO, as the airline announced yesterday that he had stepped back from the role.

Time for a change

AirAsia X announced the change yesterday in a short notice posted on its investor relations website. The notification explains that Fernandes has resigned from his position as Group CEO of AirAsia X “due to other commitments.”

Fernandes has always been a key player at AirAsia X, having transformed its parent company, AirAsia, into a successful airline before looking to AirAsia X to start low-cost long-haul services. However, it is worth noting that he was only in the role for a few months as an Acting CEO. Indeed, he took on this position in July 2022, having already been a Non-Independent Non-Executive Director.

As explained by AirAsia in a statement published yesterday, Fernandes’ resignation coincides with wider leadership changes at its long-haul subsidiary. This transition will help AirAsia X “prepare for the next phase of growth as a mid-range airline.” Fernandes will also step down from his other positions on the AirAsia X board.

Tony Fernandes AirAsia X

Photo: Getty Images

Mission accomplished

The aforementioned transition in leadership at AirAsia X has seen Tunku Dato’ Mahmood Fawzy take on the role of Independent Non-Executive Director of Thai AirAsia X. As AirAsia explains, his role “will focus on overseeing the strategic direction and driving sustainable growth for AirAsia X and Thai AirAsia X.” As for Fernandes, he leaves the airline having achieved his goals, stating that:

“I went in with a clear mandate to restart AirAsia X and bring it back to life from hibernation. I am happy that this has been accomplished, with a very edifying plan for 20 aircraft for the AirAsia X Group – 13 aircraft for AirAsia X and seven for Thai AirAsia X.”

Having stabilized under Fernandes, the carrier will now look to continue its recovery, having survived a difficult couple of years amid the pandemic. He adds that:

“My job was to bring the airline back to profitability and growth. We have improved the cost structure, and created the cargo business, which has contributed about 20% to the airline’s revenue during the pandemic, and will continue to play a vital role in the recovery of AAX.”

Airbus A330 AirAsia X

Photo: Airbus

A busy man

Fernandes had to temporarily step down as AirAsia CEO in 2020 while the carrier was investigated as a potential beneficiary of the Airbus bribery scandal. His airline was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing, and, as such, Fernandes remains one of Asia’s most highly regarded entrepreneurs. As such, the 58-year-old Malaysian businessman will have no trouble keeping himself busy.

Indeed, as Simple Flying explored earlier this year, he has seen extensive involvement in the world of professional sport, having been the founder of the now-extinct Caterham Formula One team. Furthermore, his leisure corporation, the Tune Group, holds a 46% stake in English football team Queen’s Park Rangers. Fernandes has also previously served as the West London side’s Chair.

What do you make of AirAsia X’s leadership changes? have you ever flown with the Malaysian low-cost long-haul carrier? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

  • AirAsia-X-Belly-Cargo-A330-Getty


    IATA/ICAO Code:

    Airline Type:
    Low-Cost Carrier

    Year Founded:

    Riad Asmat



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