Tiger Airways has accused chief executive of Malaysian rival AirAsia Tony Fernandes of passing “racial remarks” and “resorting to racial slurs” against the Singapore-based carrier.
The spat erupted after Mr Fernandes, in an interview with The Bangkok Post, questioned plans by Tiger to form a joint venture with Thai Airways International (Thai), which would compete against Mr Fernandes’ own Thai AirAsia.
Noting that Thai AirAsia was run by a Thai management team, the AirAsia chief told the newspaper: “We’re Asians, not a bunch of white guys running the airline”, referring to the management team at Tiger, which is helmed by Mr Tony Davis, who is the airline’s president and group CEO.
Responding to his comment, Tiger Airways said yesterday: “We are disappointed and surprised to read reports that the head of AirAsia has passed racial remarks against Tiger Airways.”
“While we understand that we are intensifying the level of competition with our expansion across Asia, resorting to racial slurs is unbecoming and unnecessary.”
The Singapore-based airline added: “Tiger Airways is proud of our employees’ contributions regardless of their race or cultural background. Positions are determined by merit alone.
“In any case, we happen to have a great racial and cultural diversity across our board, management and the rest of the organisation.”
Mr Fernandes also described Tiger Airways, in which Singapore Airlines owns a stake, as an “odd” choice for a business ally for Thai as it was not making “much” money. The Singapore-based airline, he said, was also facing a pilot shortage. “They have not yet been able to solve their problems, so what are they going to teach the Thais?”
In its reply, which was sent to the media on Friday, Tiger Airways said: “Tiger Airways will continue to compete against all airlines in Asia and Australia. Together with Thai Airways, we will create a management team that is well qualified to lead Thai Tiger Airways, and repeat the success of Tiger Airways Singapore and Tiger Airways Australia.”
When contacted by Today, Mr Fernandes claimed his remarks were not racial and that his statements were “clearly an honest assessment of them”.
“I believe that Tiger’s management does not have a clear understanding of the Asian market,” he added.