CEO faces daunting challenge from investors

CEO faces daunting challenge from investors

KUALA LUMPUR - Budget airline AirAsia's shares fell to 2.70 ringgit (S$1) on Monday, down 2 per cent as the recovery effort continued for AirAsia Indonesia Flight QZ8501, which went down in the Java Sea on Dec 28.

Tony Fernandes, the company's CEO, is trying to project an image of leadership in what he calls his "worst nightmare," but investors are focusing on a possible short-term hit to demand for its services.

The recovery operation has retrieved 34 bodies from the crash site. The wreckage of the jet is lying on the ocean floor off the coast of western Kalimantan, Borneo. Operated by AirAsia Indonesia, the plane, with 162 passengers and crew aboard, appears to have flown into storm clouds before disappearing from radar on its way to Singapore from Surabaya. Although Indonesian authorities have said the flight was unauthorized, AirAsia has declined to comment until the investigation is completed.

Executive responsibility

Fernandes has won praise and support for his proactive communication with relatives of the crash victims via Twitter soon after the jet was confirmed missing in the early morning of Dec 28. He asked his employees to remain strong, consoled the families of the crew and passengers, and alerted the media to upcoming company statements. Fernandes also took care to reflect the solemnity of the incident, changing the airline's bright red logo to a somber gray online.

"I, as your group CEO, will be there through these hard times," Fernandes wrote on Dec 28. He flew to Surabaya from his base in Kuala Lumpur within hours after the flight vanished from Indonesian air traffic control. There he met the families of the passengers and crew, and later flew to Jakarta to meet with authorities overseeing the rescue operation.

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