CEO joins AirAsia X, AirAsia staff as food delivery rider during shutdown

Benyamin Ismail (left) says he would gladly do food delivery again to show support to his fellow AirAsia X colleagues like Felix Junior Theseira (right). — Picture courtesy of AirAsia
Benyamin Ismail (left) says he would gladly do food delivery again to show support to his fellow AirAsia X colleagues like Felix Junior Theseira (right). — Picture courtesy of AirAsia

PETALING JAYA, April 9 — AirAsia and AirAsia X staff are tackling the challenges of the Covid-19 crisis by taking up temporary employment as delivery riders for Santan, the airline’s fast-food restaurant in Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur.

Even the upper echelons of the airline’s management have joined them, with AirAsia X Malaysia chief executive officer Benyamin Ismail rolling up his sleeves to do food delivery to boost the morale of his colleagues, known as “Allstars.”

The 42-year-old has completed three deliveries so far and hopes he can set an example for others to stay productive during the movement control order (MCO).

“I volunteered to help when I saw that our Santan team was recruiting Allstars to do home delivery services around the Klang Valley area.

“This is a good opportunity for our Allstars to earn some honest income and support our local communities while we are in a hibernation period operationally.

“I hope that by volunteering first I can inspire more to follow,” Benyamin told Malay Mail.

Benyamin (left) says he enjoys delivering food to customers and is keen to continue. — Picture courtesy of AirAsia
Benyamin (left) says he enjoys delivering food to customers and is keen to continue. — Picture courtesy of AirAsia

The pandemic has led to tough times for the aviation industry with many airlines, AirAsia and AirAsia X included, grounding their fleets due to border restrictions and closures around the globe.

Malay Mail had a chance to speak to some of the crew members who have taken up food delivery jobs to sustain themselves and their company as they ride out the MCO together.

It’s been a surreal transition for chief flight attendant Felix Junior Theseira to become a food delivery rider but the 38-year-old said the hospitality skills he honed in the sky has served him well when working on the ground.

“Being a cabin crew member and now delivering for Santan does not make a big difference for me as we are in the service industry and one of the front-liners for the airline.

“We greet and treat all of our guests and customers the same. I wake up every day with a positive mindset and make sure I’m well-groomed to meet my customers.

“When I deliver their meals, I make sure to greet them with a smile. I also tell them to enjoy their meal because I am so used to saying that onboard,” said Theseira.

He added that it's exciting for him to deliver food to customers across the Klang Valley as being on his bike makes him feel like a "pilot" in many ways.

The chance for alternative employment has also eased the uncertainties of staff members like flight data analyst Fatin Nur Syazwani Che Yahya, 33, who joined Santan and AirAsia’s logistics platform Teleport shortly after the airline grounded most of its fleet.

Fatin hopes to return to her cadet pilot programme once the pandemic blows over. — Picture courtesy of AirAsia
Fatin hopes to return to her cadet pilot programme once the pandemic blows over. — Picture courtesy of AirAsia

“At that time, a lot of uncertainties caused many jobs to be put on hold including my cadet pilot programme.

“While waiting for things to get better, I have to stay positive and do my part in helping the company as much as I can.

“There's a saying that goes, ‘When the going gets tough, only the tough get going’ so I believe there’s a silver lining and light at the end of this tunnel,” she said.

Navigating her new role as a delivery rider came with its challenges as Fatin has to ensure that the orders arrive on time even when she’s stuck in an area with bad reception and cannot access a GPS map.

She’s also been stringent about keeping herself clean and sanitised and has exchanged her office get-up for a mask and gloves while doing her delivery rounds.

For AirAsia X head of corporate safety Captain Lim Kok Hooi, the MCO means he now juggles working from home with his new duties as a delivery man for Santan.

The MCO period has been a period of navigating new learning curves for Lim. — Picture courtesy of AirAsia
The MCO period has been a period of navigating new learning curves for Lim. — Picture courtesy of AirAsia

The volatile nature of the Covid-19 situation means the 49-year-old continues to consult on safety issues within the airline, but he’s been going on a new learning journey as well by sending food to peckish customers during the shutdown period.

“Of course, with any transition period, there will be some key learning curves but success is about accepting these challenges and focusing on the goals,” said Lim.

When asked how he stays motivated while working on the frontline, Lim said that sticking to a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough rest are some of the golden rules he continues to abide by.

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