With the advent of low cost airlines in the United States during the late 60s, airline such as Southwest Airlines started only with a handful of jets operating extensively in the Southern parts of the states. Then, sometime later, this model was replicated by European airline namely Ryanair in the 90s. With focus on no-frills, fast service, quirky branding and high aircraft utilization, they started to attract more passengers from full serviced carriers. In the past, many low cost airlines started from takeover of loss making full-fledged carriers or through leasing of older second-hand aircrafts. These days, it is not unheard of for low cost carriers signing big purchase contracts with aircraft manufacturers.
In Southeast Asia, the first low cost airline is AirAsia. It was founded by Tony Fernandes who took over a heavily indebted airline for a token sum of 1 Malaysian Ringgit. With mountains of debt, fixing the ailing airline company has become a priority for its owner. As competing with established full-fledged national carriers was a no-brainer, he started to focus on carving a market segment where AirAsia will compete based on cost. At that time, Malaysia and ASEAN region as a whole do not have any low cost carriers. Many carriers operate based on full service with premium price.
This means that in a globally challenging market situation then, many travellers who had never travelled by air will now have the opportunity to travel affordably. This had led to more revenues for the Malaysian tourism industry as more travellers are now able to stay connected with their loved ones in different cities or spend more than ever due to the cheaper air tickets. Underused local airports are also able to bring in more passengers as AirAsia usually flies to these destinations due to lower landing cost, generating more business activities around these region. With fleet of 188 aircrafts and serving all ASEAN destinations from different home bases in Southeast Asia, no doubt Air Asia is indeed an ASEAN airline.
Currently, AirAsia flies to over 68 destinations including Busan and Incheon of South Korea. Many years ago, flying from Kuala Lumpur to Incheon totalled almost 500-600 US Dollars for a return flight but now, it is not uncommon to find ticket for less than half the price offered by AirAsia. Due to increasing connectivity and flight frequency, foreigners and Malaysians alike can easily explore places like UNESCO heritage city of Georgetown, Penang in the morning and fly back with time to spare for dinner in either Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok or Singapore. Now, ASEAN is getting more connected than ever and I am very confident that ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) goal of regional connectivity and cooperation is already within reach.
For his enormous contribution to the airline industry, in year 2011, Tony Fernandes was bestowed the Panglima Setia Mahkota (Commander of the Order of the Crown of Malaysia), one of the highest Malaysian federal title awards by the King of Malaysia. Besides dabbling in airline industry, he is also the chairman of Queens Park Rangers, a professional English football club. True to his “no-frill” business model, he also operates a hotel chain called Tune Hotels providing a pay-as-you-use for extras or services to its guests.
Malaysia is a beautiful country that prides itself as multicultural and comprises many diverse ethnic and racial groups living harmoniously next to one another. Around the early 90s, Malaysia had undergone a huge economic transformation from an agricultural based economy to a more industrial oriented path. On the other hand, on the Hollywood acting scene, one Malaysian had gone international. She is none other than Michelle Yeoh.
At a tender age of 20, she started off her career by winning the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant competition before representing Malaysia in Miss World in London. From then on, she ventured into acting scene in Hong Kong by first starring in martial arts film starting with Yes, Madam in 1985 and Royal Warriors in 1986. Her successes in Hong Kong film industry brings attention to her role as a top female action star.
Her first foray in the West was when she starred in James Bond’s film Tomorrow Never Dies as one of the Bond girl. Acting as Wai Lin, a Chinese spy, in the movie. She helps Bond prevent a war between China and the Western world caused by a mad media mogul’s devious plan. Michelle Yeoh’s biggest success was none other than her role in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The critically acclaimed box office movie received not only accolades in China but became one of the highest-grossing foreign language film in America. Despite a small budget for film production, this movie grossed over US$213.5 million and winning four Oscars. With more than 40 films in her cards, she is now one of the most internationally recognized female actress.
From a small town girl in Malaysia to a world class renowned actress, she is undoubtedly one of Malaysia’s pride. Like South Korean famous Hollywood actor, Lee Byung-hun to Singapore’s Chin Han, ASEAN is never short of entertainment talent in this competitive cinematic industry.
By KYLE TAN JIN SOON, ASEAN Correspondent from Malaysia