#NotLegacy Show — Tony Fernandes and the Art of Keeping Great People

Editor’s NoteAt the recently concluded Farnborough Airshow, SimpliFlying presented the #NotLegacy Show, powered by the Bombardier C Series. The #NotLegacy show featured daily live video interviews with six aviation stalwarts who have taken the road-less-travelled to success. This article is about our interview with Tony Fernandes, the charismatic CEO of AirAsia. (You can also read a round-up of our learnings while speaking to the others.)

Aviation is a seductive industry. Most people enter it in their twenties and never leave.This has caused people to think that you need to be from the industry to succeed in aviation. Tony Fernandes strongly disagrees.

At the #NotLegacy Show, we asked Tony about the one thing that made AirAsia one of the most successful low-cost carriers in the world. His answer was simple — the capability to get and retain awesome people. For AirAsia, getting and keeping great people meant doing three things:

  1. Surrounding yourself with people who can think differently: AirAsia needed to think in a very non-legacy way to succeed in the first place. What this has resulted in is a workplace where even someone who has little experience in the industry can get into a very senior position by being disruptive.
  2. Hiring people from outside the industry: As someone who came from the music industry, Tony recognised that being an outsider can mean having a completely fresh perspective on things. As a result, he deliberately went out to get people from different industries.
  3. Creating a resilient startup-like culture: AirAsia succeeded where many others failed because of a culture of resilience and complete dedication to assigned tasks. When other airlines let themselves be dissuaded by failure, AirAsia remained resilient and eventually succeeded. The greatest testimony to this culture is the fact that AirAsia, an airline of 14,000 employees, has no unions!

So if there is one thing you could take away from Tony it is this — get and keep great people.

Top Quote

“The difference between a successful airline and one that isn’t is people.”

Full Interview

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