SEPANG, Nov 10 — AirAsia Group expects its earnings to return to pre-pandemic levels as early as six months in view of Malaysia’s gradual border reopening.

Group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said the outlook is getting better with the vaccination rates, the Covid-19 pill, herd immunity, as well as the border reopening of both Singapore and Thailand.

“From my guess, it will take us six to nine months to get back to the pre-COVID level.

“I don’t control border reopening. If the border is fully reopened, and we don’t have PCR tests and quarantine, we will get back in about three months.

“The demand is there but it’s really up to the governments now to be brave,” he told reporters today after announcing the appointment of Colin Currie as the group’s chief commercial officer.

Fernandes said international border reopening is crucial as the rebound of aviation and tourism industries in the Asia Pacific is lagging behind Europe and the United States.

Malaysia will reopen its border on Nov 15, allowing entry for foreign tourists into Langkawi under the international tourism travel bubble pilot project.

On the opening of the Malaysia-Singapore Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) on Nov 29, Fernandes believes the facility would be the beginning of an exciting future for Malaysia and Singapore.

He expressed hope for easier and simpler VTL protocols as both countries have done well in their vaccination programmes.

“I heard it’s only three flights (weekly) to start with, Singapore is the busiest route in the world so three flights would not be enough.

“Hopefully, as people get more confident, they (will keep opening up),” he said, adding that the group is managing 700 flights currently compared with only 66 flights in September.

Meanwhile, Fernandes said AirAsia is welcoming back their furloughed staff in January next year and plans are underway to rehire the budget airline’s retrenched employees.

“My goal now is to get everyone’s salary back to normal, within the next month, and those furloughed to come back in January,” he said. — Bernama