Thursday February 16, 2012
AirAsia keen on the Gulf area
By CECILIA KOK
It is in talks to set up low-cost carrier with some parties
DOHA: AirAsia Group is in discussion with several parties to set up a low-cost carrier (LCC) in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) areas, according to group chief executive officer Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes.
“We're looking at it quite seriously at the moment,” Fernandes told a press conference yesterday.
He, however, declined to reveal the names of the parties with which AirAsia was having discussions for the setting up of the LCC business in the GCC, explaining that it was not permissible for him to do so at this juncture.
Fernandes pointed to the ample business opportunities in the GCC and the Middle East, effected by hajj pilgrimage, a huge population and rising economic activities, as the main draw for him to expand AirAsia's business in the region.
At present, AirAsia flies only to one destination in the Middle East Tehran in Iran.
Meanwhile, in the pipeline is a plan to start to flights from Kuala Lumpur to Doha in Qatar. Fernandes, however, said there was no firm decision as yet as to which of the airlines AirAsia X or Malaysia Airlines System, or both that would be undertaking this route. Details would be announced in due course, he said.
On whether AirAsia could be setting up a base in Doha, Fernandes said he would not rule out such a possibility.
“The beauty of our relationship (between Tune Group and its Qatari partner Mohammad Al Saad) is anything is possible,” Fernandes explained.
Fernandes, who co-founded Tune Group with long-time partner Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, yesterday led the launch of a 50:50 joint venture with Al Saad called Tune Middle East.
Al Saad in the vice-chairman and managing director of Barwa Bank Group and vice-chairman of Barwa Real Estate. He is also the chairman of Qatari construction groups Tanween and QCon, and sits on the board of directors of various local companies such as Qatar Fuel Co.
Headquartered in Doha, Tune Middle East will be a platform for Tune Group to roll out its brands in the GCC and the Middle East, targeting mainly the under-served mass market.
Tune Group is a diversified lifestyle business conglomerate which owns various brands, including AirAsia (via Tune Air Sdn Bhd), Tune Hotels, Tune Money, Tune Talk, Tune Box,Tune Studios, Caterham Group, Asean Basketball League, Kuala Lumpur Education City and English Premier league team Queens Park Rangers Football Club.
“Our immediate priorities in the Middle East are hotels and Tune Money,” Fernandes said.
According to Tune Hotels Regional Services Sdn Bhd Mark Lankester, the group would see its first hotel in the Middle East up in the next 10 months in Saudi Arabia. The plan was to have a 7,000-room capacity spread across various parts of Saudi Arabia, especially in Mecca, Jeddah and Riyahd, within five years.
As for Qatar, Lankaster said the target was to have its first hotel up within the next 18 months. At the moment, though, they were still looking for a suitable site to build its hotel in the country.
Other countries in the region that Tune Hotels is already in discussions to expand into include Egypt, Iran, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. Lankester revealed that there were also plans to expand the group's footprint in the hotel industry of East Africa.
Meanwhile, Tune Money CEO Peter Miller said the company was still in discussion, trying to find the right products for the market in the Middle East. There was no specific target as to when the first product for the region would be launched, he said, but it would be within a short period of time.