Tony Fernandes: Bosses should go down to the ground

Tony Fernandes, Group CEO, AirAsia.

KUALA LUMPUR - AirAsia CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes has told bosses to go down to the ground if they want to become good leaders.

"You cannot know what's going on if you're only in the office," he said at the 7th Annual Malaysian Student Leaders Summit Sunday afternoon.

When AirAsia first started Fernandes could often be seen manning the ticket counters and carrying passengers bags.

He related a story where there was a switch of airplanes from the 737 to the Airbus.Fernandes explained that it was quite straightforward to put the bags in a 737.

The Airbus however had a different structure that made it difficult to load the bags manually.

When a staff explained that belt loaders costing almost RM5mil (S$1.94 million)  needed to be purchased to load the bags into the new planes, Fernandes straightaway rejected it.

However, after a shift of trying to manually load the luggage onto the Airbus, he sanctioned the purchase of the belt loaders, he said.

"If I hadn't gone down to the ground, a lot of bodies would have been destroyed," he said.

Fernandes also spoke about the obstacles he faced when trying to make AirAsia a success.The airline has now grown to become one of the most well-known low cost carriers in the world.It owns 150 planes and employs about 10,000 people.

He stressed that people were the biggest asset to an organisation.When asked if he would consider joining politics, he said he wouldn't make a good politician.

"I would say the wrong thing and be put in jail," he quipped.

However, he said the cabinet could do with more business-like people.He added that he wanted to get back to the music business as it was his passion.