Flying High - My Story from AirAsia to QPR review: Reaching for the skies

Flying High: My Story from AirAsia to QPR Tony Fernandes Portfolio Penguin ₹699  

“Flying’s expensive and we can’t afford to bring you home every seven weeks.”

I was angry.

“Well, I’m going to make it cheap.”

And affordable he made it, as he told his ailing mother in faraway Kuala Lumpur.

The life of Tony Fernandes, the boy who dared to dream, begins as a journey of a young boy growing up in Malaysia, sent by his parents to study in the U.K., finding himself as a homesick boarding school student, and then growing up to be an adult, who eventually finds his feet after stumbling and learning along the way. From music to the airline industry, he finally makes a mark as a businessman who makes the world sit up and take note.

The kernel of the book lies in the first chapter where there’s a moving story of a parcel, out of sight for about 30 years, arriving at Fernandes’ doorstep by post. Wrapped around his life is this ‘Tuck box of dreams’ that touch the world of sport, music and aviation.

The early passing of his mother, at 48, the rock in Fernandes’s life — he was 15 and the news is broken to him in class — turns his world around as at that age “you think your parents are indestructible.” His grieving energy is channelled into sport. But his parents’ desire to see him pursue medicine is lost. He leaves Epsom, at 19, for the U.S. and then returns after a year. The challenge he sets himself, of buying a house, and without a salary, is what fires his interest in business. At 20, he has his own house.

A course sees him qualify as an accountant, at the end of which he joins the music industry. After a stint back in Malaysia, as “the music scene needs a shake-up,” he returns to London where, one day, he sees Stelios, the founder of easyJet, pop up on television. It’s aviation for him and it’s no looking back. From two aircraft inherited from “a tiny, unknown and unloved airline,” Fernandes ensures that in the David and Goliath battle (against Malaysia Airlines), it’s his AirAsia that grows and soars.

Stories such as how the low-cost airline began to fly to India’s Tiruchirappalli —“which he had never heard of” and which sparked his interest after a “mourning colleague told him about it at the funeral of one of the airline’s Indian engineers” — are among the many nuggets in this 244-page memoir, which also focusses on his experiences in the world of sport.

Though Tony Fernandes is emphatic in his view that he is not the “Asian Richard Branson,” the book is a revelation on how a business style that is different from the usual “rigidly hierarchical” Asian management practices can work wonders.

Flying High: My Story from AirAsia to QPR; Tony Fernandes, Portfolio Penguin, ₹699.

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Printable version | May 6, 2021 7:39:34 AM |

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