As the celebrations for the 50th year anniversary and the 2017 Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit wrapped up in Manila, Philippines, much of the headlines has been focused on interactions among the leaders of the member states and dialogue partners from the United States, Canada, and China. Also present in Manila was Air Asia CEO Tony Fernandes, who continued to push for a more united effort by ASEAN to improve air travel in the region.
Ferndandes called on government officials in the ASEAN region to form a single aviation authority to address the needs of carriers and the aviation industry within the region. In doing so, he hopes there would be one aviation standard to avoid difficulties dealing with 10 separate governments.
Another point Fernandes made was a call for an adoption of an ASEAN visa similar to the European Union style, which he stated "I have been campaigning for an Asean visa for a long time. The Chinese passenger does not need 10 different visas to visit Asean member-countries. I believe there is a growing awareness of this."
During the ASEAN summit, Asean Deputy Secretary-General, Dr AKT Mochtan reiterated the confidence the 2017 goal for 121 million tourists in ASEAN countries could be reached. He also stated that 116 million tourists have already visited the region to-date, where 43% were travelling between member states.
Fernandes also addressed the work being made for Air Asia in its efforts to form its ASEAN holding company, which would operate flights with the ASEAN flag along with the respective country. Fernandes stated his company's focus was to work on the legal aspects and form the organization within six months.
“As soon as it is approved, the Asean holding company will be there. We want to create an Asean holding company that owns the airline 100 per cent. This is my ultimate dream,” he told reporters at the unveiling of the “I Love Asean” aircraft livery, held at the Philippine Air Force Headquarters which is located within the Ninoy Aquino Airport area.
From its beginning in 1993, Air Asia started its low cost air travel operations from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Since its founding, Air Asia grew into new markets through forming their own local affiliates in ASEAN countries. At present, there are Air Asia affiliates in Vietnam, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand. The airline recently relaunched its Japan-based operation, and has announced plans to purchase more aircraft and expand within Asia.
While making calls for improvements during the ASEAN summit and in the past, Fernandes credits ASEAN for Air Asia's success. “We owe our success to ASEAN,” Fernandes said. “As a truly ASEAN airline, we want to bring the people across the region closer together in line with the amazing work ASEAN has done over the past 50 years.”