Twitter backlash gives Tony Fernandes reality check

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KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 18 – Tan Sri Tony Fernandes’s tweet about a company holding a monopoly in the country but which does not care for its customers backfired when netizens told him to check his own backyard first.

“It’s incredible how some companies that are monopolies don’t care about their customers. We have a company in Malaysia like that. Management, CEO don’t even return calls or text messages. Malaysia must inject competition into monopolies.” the AirAsia Group chief executive officer posted on his Twitter page yesterday.

Though he did not mention any names, some observers have speculated that the likely target of his tweet was Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad (MAHB), which is the sole operator of almost all airports in the country. Other companies with a monopoly in the country include Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), Indah Water Konsortium (IWK), Astro and Grab.

Though the message may have been intended to show up the topic of monopoly, instead it ended up being derided by many netizens who told Fernandes to look at how AirAsia deals with its customers.

Netizens want AirAsia customer service improved first

Ismahar Ismail, in his reply to Fernandes’ tweet said: “Not sure on monopolies. But not returning call and text sound familiar. Let me guess…@AirAsia? #karma”

Another Twitter user named Linda was more blunt: “The pot calling the kettle black…whenever i tried contacting airasia’s call center i will be put on hold. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME!”

Two similar responses from Ballymack and Shinn9199 just lamented how Fernandes was either talking about AirAsia itself or that his intended target was no different to AirAsia.

However, there was one respite in a reply from a user ironically named REALIST, who said “AirAsia Support only reply to complaints when their big boss is tagged. If not they dont even bother with customers.”

This is evident from past experiences when the busy Malaysian tycoon who also oversees the Tune Group, regional AirAsia companies as well as the Queens Park Rangers football club in England, has responded to complaints or forwarded them to the relevant people in his company.

Tony Fernandes at loggerheads with MAHB

His views on MAHB are well known, clashing with the company since the days the budget airline was operating out of the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) right through the building of the new KLIA2 airport terminal, the problems at the new airport, and the increase in the passenger services charge (PSC) at all airports for commercial flights in the country.

He had also taken direct aim at the operations at KLIA2 on Tuesday, when he tweeted about two Japanese cities and the low-cost carrier terminals they were building.

“Japanese airports are ahead. Narita and Nagoya and Osaka all building lcct terminals. Lower charges simpler operations , supporting lcc and growing the airport,” he said.

The Port Dickson by-election

Fernandes had most recently been in the limelight over his comments pertaining to Port Dickson, while the campaigning for the recent by-election was on-going.

Writing on his LinkedIn page on October 4, Fernandes said he was excited by all the attention paid to the small resort town.

“We’ve been advocates in the development of this raw diamond since years ago. Its vicinity to KLIA makes it a potential to be the Jumeirah Beach (Dubai) of Malaysia particularly for transiting passengers.

“Convention centers, shopping malls and resorts are just some of the projects that we believe can take Port Dickson to new heights,” he said.

Many Malaysians then attacked him for seemingly being in support of the Pakatan Harapan candidate, PKR President Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who had pledge a new “airline programme” as part of his campaign promises.

The turnaround by Fernandes was mocked as he had backed Barisan Nasional led by former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak prior to the 14th General Election (GE14) in May.

The blue aircraft, uniform debacle

Last May, he had tweeted images showing how an AirAsia aircraft colour was changed to the BN blue, aside from his crew donning blue uniforms instead of the usual red.

Fernandes was also photographed sitting next to Najib in the “BN” aircraft and made a video in support of BN and its former chairman.