AirAsia's Shares Are Under Pressure As The Airline's Flamboyant CEO Faces His Greatest Test

Tony Fernandez at Djuanda International airport in Surabaya, Indonesia. Oscar Siagian/Getty Images

AirAsia’s shares are under pressure today as the search continues for its passenger plane missing with 162 people on board between Indonesia and Singapore.

The shares fell on opening in Malaysia by 13%, but recovered to be trading around 6% lower at 0.65 Ringgit.

The low-cost airline is the baby of Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes who bought the struggling business for one ringgit (about 35 cents) in 2001. With it came two aircraft and millions of dollars in debt.

The former music industry executive built the airline on the back of the slogan: “Now everyone can fly.”

AirAsia repaid its debt in less than two years. It now has 160 Airbus A320 aircraft and was named the World’s Best Low Cost Airline in the annual World Airline Survey by Skytrax for six consecutive years from 2009 – 2014.

And now, according to Forbes magazine, Fernandes is worth $650 million and is the co-owner of English Premier League soccer team Queens Park Rangers.

He is the face of the Apprentice Asia, the reality show where aspiring entrepreneurs compete to work with him.

When news of the missing aircraft broke, Fernandes headed quickly to Indonesia where most of the passengers come from.

He tweeted: “I am touched by the massive show of support especially from my fellow airlines. This is my worse nightmare. But there is no stopping.”

He says the warmth and support from the people of Indonesia has been incredible.

“Keeping positive and staying strong,” he said. “My heart bleeds for all the relatives of my crew and our passengers. Nothing is more important to us.”

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