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Tony Fernandes talking about AirAsia's refund issues in a video
Tony Fernandes talking about AirAsia's refund issues in a video

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Tony Fernandes strikes the right balance in addressing AirAsia's refund issues

The aviation industry has been hit hard by COVID-19, and although airlines are now gradually starting to launch more flights, some of them are still struggling.

AirAsia still owes some of its customers money. And it is always difficult to talk about money.

But Tan Sri Dato' Sri Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia Group, is sincere and convincing in broaching the topic. That is why we have nominated him for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2021.

Watch and read below for my assessment.


We launched the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards in 2018 to recognise local business leaders for their communications skills, and to showcase authentic and credible home-grown communicators.

Supported by the Asia Pacific Association of Communications Directors and joining us this year – the Investor Relations Professionals Association Singapore and the Public Relations and Communications Association - we highlight shining examples for other local business leaders to follow, and to build a culture of excellence in communication, to maximise the potential of Asian companies in the Asian Century.

Nominations close October 31, 2021 at


Core message

Since this presentation was about refunds, Fernandes sets the scene by talking about how empty the headquarters of AirAsia, where he shot the video, is looking. And how most of AirAsia’s planes are on the ground. He then brings up the subject of refunds.

Candour and sincerity

Fernandes shows his sincerity and candour by saying, “I’m going to say it as it is. The reality is AirAsia hasn’t flown for a year.”

A difficult subject requires plain language from the presenter or interviewee to make it work.

Gratitude is also part of the equation. Addressing the AirAsia customers who agreed to take credit instead of refunds, Fernandes said, “That is the best support you could give me and all of the Allstars, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.”

Fernandes hit all the right notes by being sincere, honest and grateful.


Fernandes’ sincerity would not work if he did not have numbers to back him up. He says AirAsia has paid back 1.5 million people since last January, and that he wants to thank 2.9 million people who have agreed to take the refund in the form of credits. That is 2.9 million people who are showing their confidence in the AirAsia brand.

Fernandes says 450,000 customers have not been paid yet. But he promises AirAsia will pay them back.

Talking about AirAsia before COVID, Fernandes mentions the airline served 600 million passengers and created many jobs.

These numbers all suit and strengthen Fernandes’ message.


Fernandes balances the informal and the formal. He wears a T-shirt and communicates directly. He makes eye contact with the camera, and does not use much jargon.

If he had veered too much towards formal, his presentation would have failed. Most CEOs would err on the side of formality for all communication. But Fernandes is media-savvy enough to strike the right balance.

If you know Fernandes, share this article with him and congratulate him on being nominated for the Hong Bao Media Savvy Awards 2021.

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Mark Laudi

Mark Laudi

Press contact Managing Director (+65) 6223 2249

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