“YOU only have one vote so use it wisely,” advised the captain of a lunchtime AirAsia flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur on May 9th. It was the third time he had reminded passengers of Malaysia’s election that day. Travellers delighted by the personal touch shook his hand as they disembarked.
The pilot was not freelancing. AirAsia had planned to provide 120 flights with reduced fares to help Malaysians get home to vote (in the end, half of the extra flights were approved by the airlines regulator). And the low-cost carrier’s political play went much further than encouraging people to vote. Tony Fernandes, the firm’s British-Malaysian boss, arranged for an AirAsia plane to be painted with the slogan of the ruling coalition of Najib Razak, the country’s prime minister at the time. Mr Najib duly posted pictures of it. Mr Fernandes also appeared in a video attributing the success of his business to the Malaysian government.
Then came the most astonishing political result…Continue reading