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Topless Tony gets heat over massage pic

The AirAsia boss is taken to task over a photo posted on LinkedIn, of him receiving a back rub during a meeting in Indonesia.

3 minute read
AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes receiving a back rub during a meeting in Indonesia.
AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes receiving a back rub during a meeting in Indonesia.

AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes has drawn flak after sharing a picture of himself apparently topless while receiving a back rub from a masseur during a meeting in Indonesia, with many calling the post distasteful and disrespectful.

Fernandes, who renamed his troubled budget airline company Capital A, posted the picture on LinkedIn, the employment-focused social media platform, saying he had had a "stressful week".

He added that AirAsia Indonesia CEO Veranita Yosephine had suggested a massage.

"Got to love Indonesia and AirAsia culture that I can have a massage and do a management meeting," he wrote.

Instead of the complimentary comments characteristic of the professionals social media platform, his post drew criticism from users who expressed shock and said he was being insensitive. 

"I hope not but I think someone hacked into his LinkedIn and wrote this," said fund manager Sonny Mohanty.

Singapore-based brand manager Rebecca Nadilo meanwhile reminded him of his female employees.

"I don't think the women in your company would feel comfortable or safe in this context, and given you're the boss, they likely won't challenge you or say anything," she said.

Copywriter Jay Padriga commented: "I took my shirt (off) during a management meeting and got fired."

A senior marketing officer at a Singapore company meanwhile wrote: "A grown man, who is the chief executive of a publicly listed company, conducts a management meeting with his shirt off as he gets a massage.

"Remove 'who is the chief executive of a publicly listed company' and it is still inappropriate," Nathalie D Ramirez added.

Communications expert Anton Reyniers meanwhile linked the attitude to AirAsia's service.

"Work at AirAsia, where meetings are as gross as our passenger experience. You have managed to capture everything from inappropriate entitlement to exemplary C Suite tone deafness in a single image. Bravo!"

Alex F View, a senior aviation executive at a UAE firm, said: "The poor staff on that call will need counselling after seeing that."

Some however appeared happy with the post. "Love this boss!" wrote Ilyas Ariffin, who gave his position as an account manager with HP Malaysia. 

Zulkifli Dzin, of Bermaz Auto Bhd, meanwhile commented: "6-pack boss."

IT specialist Huzairi Hussaini said in a sarcasm-laced post: "Amazing achievements, Veranita! Congrats on your progress!" – a reference to AirAsia Indonesia's CEO – while talent seeker Priya Bala said: "Oh gawd!! How to unsee this? Put your shirt back on, Tony Fernandes."

This is not the first time Fernandes has been criticised for unprofessional conduct.

In 2021, he and then AirAsia digital president Aireen Omar came under fire after allowing the CEO of AirAsia Thailand to berate staff and use a four-letter word during a town hall meeting.

"What’s your f—ing question," Tassapon Bijleveld was heard telling a female staff, before turning to Fernandes to let him answer.

Throughout the episode, both Fernandes and Aireen were seen smiling, even as Tassapon told the staff to "shut up".

AirAsia has come under attack from social media users over a number of reasons, most notably its frequent flight cancellations as well as its refusal to refund money to passengers.

MalaysiaNow has extensively documented grouses from passengers around the world over AirAsia's policies:

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