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KUALA LUMPUR, May 5, 2015:

With Myanmar slowly but surely opening up its borders to foreign investments and tourists, AirAsia Bhd is not ruling out the possibility of another joint venture (JV) within the Asean region.

“New JV’s are not out of the question,” said group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, when asked about expansion plans in Asean – which comprises Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

AirAsia has at present several JVs in Asean – Thai AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, AirAsiaZest and Indonesia AirAsia.

But Fernandes did not reveal which country he has earmarked for the next possible venture, and only said the move would further strengthen AirAsia’s Asean network.

“We are also focusing on our fly-thru product (in Asean), which connects our long haul guests to our short haul network,” he said via email.

Going forward, he believes governments should continuously remove barriers that are protectionist, self-serving and unfair – thereby limiting growth and acting against business incentives.

“In respect of Asean’s aviation industry, such barriers add to operational costs and constrain the development of a truly regional market.

“These include member states restricting airline ownership, not recognising each others’ aviation licences, approvals and certificates.

“This limits the free movement of aviation workers and maintains different standards for licensing, aircraft maintenance and flight operations.”

Asked about experts cautioning against high expectations from the advent of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) by year-end, Fernandes said there is definitely a lot of interest in it.

“But there has to be stronger political will to overcome the challenges of regional integration and to establish the AEC.

“This political will has to come from the governments of Asean, the private sector and citizens, who stand to benefit from Asean integration. There is a lot of discussion, but we need more and faster action.”

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