AirAsia to stay in Kuala Lumpur
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AirAsia to stay in Kuala Lumpur

If they ever planned to move, they certainly say they aren’t going to now, reports Asia Sentinel

AirAsia, the fast-growing Malaysia-based low-cost airline, has put on an intensive damage control campaign to back away from a statement by the airline’s boss that implied that its regional headquarters would be based in Jakarta.

Tony Fernandes, the airline’s boss, told the Jakarta Globe in Tokyo on July 22 that the headquarters would be in Jakarta as part of an effort to be regarded as a regional Southeast Asian airline rather than as a Malaysian one. Fernandes was in effect confirming a story that had appeared in the Kuala Lumpur-based Malaysian Insider on May 19.

Asia Sentinel, quoting the Globe story, said the airline was to open its base in the Equity Building in South Jakarta in October. Fernandes told the newspaper he had already bought a home in Jakarta within walking distance of the headquarters and that “Asean is based in Jakarta, and Indonesia will be the largest economy in Asean in times to come … And I like it there.”

The story kicked off a storm in Malaysia. In a prepared statement, AirAsia said “there are absolutely no plans, nor the inclination, to move the headquarters of this Malaysian-incorporated company out of the country. And our Malaysian-registered fleet of aircraft will continue to operate from the LCCT,” the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang.

AirAsia is listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange. Its headquarters are in Petaling Jaya, a Kuala Lumpur suburb.

“Tony never said, or implied, that we’re moving away from Kuala Lumpur,” said Azman Osman-rani, the chief executive of AirAsia X, the airline’s long-haul carrier, in an email to Asia Sentinel. “Irrespective of however he described the Asean office to be set up in Jakarta, he very clearly never gave any impression that we are packing our bags and closing shop in KL.”