AirAsia Group is planning to rehire workers who were retrenched because of the pandemic starting January 2022, as founder and chief executive officer Tony Fernandes sees a bullish outlook in the months to come.
"Within January, we'll get everyone back and then there's the next journey of all the redundant staff, we have to get them back," said Fernandes in a briefing on Wednesday, November 10.
Earlier, AirAsia Philippines said it would call back retrenched workers by the second quarter of 2022.
Fernandes said things are "looking better" for the group, especially with borders reopening.
"Today is really the beginning of the end.… We've got a long way to go but we're back."
Fernandes noted that the pace of recovery is still dependent on a number of factors, such as the reopening of borders and the relaxation of quarantine and testing protocols.
"How much longer do we keep our borders closed when all are vaccinated and people coming in are tested? You have double vaccinated. I think Asia Pacific is behind Europe and America," he said.
The reopening of Singapore, which had been closed off from the rest of the world for almost two years, is a good sign for AirAsia.
"If borders all open tomorrow, in three months, we'll be back to normal. But my guess is, it will take us six to nine months to get us to pre-COVID levels," said Fernandes, referring to the group's revenues.
To strengthen AirAsia's position in the region, former Adidas executive Colin Currie was appointed chief commercial officer of the airline.
Fernandes will be banking on Currie's experience to increase the competitiveness of AirAsia's new businesses, such as its Super App and e-commerce ventures.
"Data is the new oil that can improve people's lives, and with data, we can do anything," Currie said.
Fernandes noted that Currie was able to grow Adidas' revenue in Greater China fivefold.
Aside from this, Fernandes said the group is thinking of changing their holding company's name. Recently, AirAsia Investment, the group's airline segment, was renamed AirAsia Aviation.
This could signal AirAsia's transformation as it pivots to a digital travel and lifestyle company.