KUALA LUMPUR: Established in 2001, AirAsia, which took off with just two Boeing 737 aircraft and 200 staff, has now grown into a company of 12,000 "family members" and a fleet of 100 aircraft come 2020.
That is just the Malaysian operations.
AirAsia has also spread its wings across Asean and beyond the region's shores.
The low-cost carrier is a success story in breaking barriers and making air travel accessible to people from all walks of life, having served over 600 million guests across the Asia Pacific region thus far.
But all the above would not have been possible if not for the disruptive culture that has been ingrained into the organisation.
“We have and cabin crew members that have become pilots in AirAsia, while others have taken part in beauty pageants. The environment of inclusiveness is so much ingrained into the organisation," said its chief executive officer Riad Asmat.
"There is no specific rule but here (in AirAsia) everyone can dream big, it doesn't matter what your race, creed or background is. I have come from multiple disciplines and I can say, here it is different," he told Bernama.
AirAsia also believes it is giving back to the community, said Riad, who was appointed to lead AirAsia's Malaysian operations two years ago.
"I have seen it for myself the multiplier effect of an additional or new route.
"As a Malaysian, the happiness that I saw really touches me. It is not only about having a job but also a job with the right pay," said Riad.
Hence, shared prosperity is not only about giving but also creating it, he explained.
Asked if AirAsia gives more importance to its employees' welfare than profit, Riad pointed out that "it is a fine balance. The welfare of our people is as important as our profits. It is linked. I have to make a profit to be able to care for my employees. So, you cannot put one over the other."
For instance, if there are unhappy employees, they would reflect the unhappiness when they deal with a customer.
Hence, employees need to be well-taken care of for them to provide the best service.
"There is no specific formula but we have found our balance and we give utmost importance to both equally," said Riad.
Besides creating more employment in Malaysia and across the region through its various affiliates, AirAsia has also nurtured and groomed budding entrepreneurs to be successful businesspeople.
He said that AirAsia has five local vendors for hot meals and nine others for snacks and beverages.
"The priority is products which are made in Malaysia. If it cannot be locally sourced then it has to be from Asean. It is about prospering together," he said.
He cited the famous "Pak Nasser" nasi lemak as one of many success stories behind AirAsia's initiative in promoting local entrepreneurs.
"Do you know that the nasi lemak provider is from Nilai? It is the most favourite meal across the group. It can be flights in the Philippines but the most pre-booked meal is nasi lemak Pak Nasser," he revealed.
Even the mineral water on AirAsia flights is sourced locally under the brand name "Pendang," which is from a rainforest reserve in Kedah.
Besides these, the low-cost airline also works closely with the Agriculture Ministry to promote Malaysia's fruit juices and titbits like "kerepek" on board its flights.
Similarly, in Thailand or other countries where AirAsia operates, the airlines give priority to local suppliers.
And with the government's Shared Prosperity Vision 2030, what AirAsia had been doing all this while would be further amplified, he said, adding that the company would continue to create employment and support local entrepreneurs.
"They (entrepreneurs) would grow along with the airline," he said with pride. – Bernama