PETALING JAYA: AirAsia Group Bhd’s 2,000 furloughed employees will return to work next year and salaries will be reinstated to their normal rates next month, said CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes.

“If everything (economy and international borders) is open I can rehire everyone in three months,” he told reporters at a press conference to announce the appointment of former Adidas executive Colin Currie as the group’s chief commercial officer today.

In June 2020, the group cut its workforce by up to 30%, and reduced salaries by up to 75% in an attempt to save the airline as it struggled to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fernandes lamented the government’s decision to keep international borders closed.

“If borders are open tomorrow, AirAsia’s business will be back to normal in three months. My guess is it will take six to nine months (for AirAsia’s business) to get back to pre-Covid levels,” he said.

Currie is tasked with developing a consumer-centric strategy using data to optimise growth and meet the financial objectives across AirAsia’s airlines and digital units. He will drive 50% of the group’s revenue from digital businesses by 2025.

Asked if the group no longer relies on its airline operation to generate revenue, Currie said aviation is the core business and it will continue to grow.

“Other lifestyle offerings such as e-hailing, e-commerce, and finance will grow at a faster rate because they are smaller. The vision is how we can build a travel and lifestyle business rather than just a core airline.

“I hope we can achieve some quick wins in the six months. The first thing is I want to assimilate to the culture here and get to know the key stakeholders and understand others to navigate in the company. I hope in the first 100 days after people get to know me, I can articulate my roadmap to the CEO and individual units,” Currie said.

He said he will enhance the overall brand and sales performance, especially in the new digital enterprises. “I am confident of accelerating and solidifying AirAsia’s success as a leading digital tech and lifestyle company in Asean.”

Currie’s key performance indicators include elevating AirAsia to be the world’s leading travel and lifestyle brand.