PETALING JAYA: Tan Sri Tony Fernandes has apologised for “buckling under pressure” in ferrying former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak on a Barisan Nasional-themed AirAsia flight.
The AirAsia Group CEO said he would forever regret the decision, adding that he was reacting to protect the company.
“Foolishly, I thought by doing the video, which I felt was fairly neutral and factual, and the flight from Kota Kinabalu would appease the government.
“I also thought it will protect the jobs of all staff, more importantly the very essence of allowing 18 million people to fly every year at low fares,” he said in a video posted on his Facebook page yesterday.
Najib had returned to Kuala Lumpur on May 7 from his two-day visit to Sabah in an AirAsia jet featuring Barisan Nasional’s election slogan “Hebatkan Negaraku” (Make my Country Great). Fernandes accompanied him on the flight.
Fernandes said he buckled at a crucial moment in the country’s history and it was only right to explain what had happened over the last few weeks.
“When Tan Sri Rafidah (Aziz) started getting involved with Pakatan Harapan campaigns through her social media and ceramah, I was asked to remove her as chairman of AirAsia X. I refused to do so because I thought it was not the right thing to do.
“I came under intense pressure day by day as Rafidah became more involved in the campaign. As her impact and popularity grew, the pressure grew exponentially.
“It was getting harder and harder to resist the pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office. I stood firm and never mentioned to Rafidah to step down from the board of AirAsia X because I believed it was just not the right thing to do,” he said.
Fernandes also explained AirAsia’s decision to add more flights at low fares for the people to fly back and vote in the general election.
“I knew it wouldn’t be popular with the government but I felt as an airline, we had to serve the people. And this time, people really wanted to go back.
“In the previous elections, AirAsia was not a large airline and we could not make a difference.
“So, we added 120 extra flights which would have carried 26,000 people on top of our normal flights and reduced our ticket prices to make it more affordable.
“RM99 for flights in Peninsular Malaysia and RM129 for flights across to East Malaysia,” he said.
Unfortunately, he said, this put him under even more pressure when the government realised that the airline was ferrying so many voters.
“Within 24 hours, we were summoned by the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) and told to cancel all those flights,” he claimed.
A Mavcom spokesperson issued a statement last night, saying that it had immediately commenced an investigation into these “serious allegations”.
“We will keep members of the public informed,” the spokesperson said.
Fernandes said he looked forward to a fantastic new Malaysia that would give everyone a chance.
“I will do my level best and put 150% in making up for this error of judgment to ensure AirAsia will continue to allow dreams to come true and to allow us to reach the true potential of what Malaysia wants to be.
“We will do our best to play that small little part.
“It is still the happiest day of my life that we have a new Malaysia that will give everyone an amazing chance to reach for the sky,” he said.
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