Tony Fernandes ,Team Lotus Team Principal, AirAsia Group CEO and Malaysia’s iconic entrepreneur, has been awarded a Commander of the Order of the British Empire honour by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

The citation says the award was conferred “for services to promote commercial and educational links” between the United Kingdom and Malaysia.

Fernandes, together with three partners, took over the loss-making AirAsia from a Malaysian government-linked company in December, 2001. In just over nine years under his leadership, AirAsia has soared to become Asia’s largest Low-Cost Carrier as well as a Truly ASEAN airline that links the Southeast Asian region to the larger world with its low fares, route connectivity and high-quality service.

In 2007, he founded sister airline AirAsia X, the low-cost, long-haul carrier that is often dubbed “AirAsia on steroids.” AirAsia X launched its low-fare route between Kuala Lumpur (LCCT, Sepang) and London (Stansted) in 2008, providing affordable air fares that have spurred travel between the two countries, both in tourism as well as among students.

In Formula One, Fernandes and his partners Kamarudin Meranun and SM Nasarudin have gained huge respect, credibility and an army of fans around the world since launching their team in record time for the start of the 2010 F1 season. Now racing under the iconic Team Lotus banner, they achieved their first year objective of winning the battle of the sport’s new teams and are now taking the fight to the established midfield teams and continuing their march up the grid. Team Lotus is not only hugely popular with fans, it is also providing motorsport talent from across the ASEAN region and around the world with the chance to join the most high profile sporting championship on the planet.

Not content with changing the aviation industry, Fernandes has also set about innovating the landscape in more terrestrial ventures. He is the founder of the Tune Group of companies, which hosts under its umbrella Tune Hotels (budget hotels, including one located in central London), Tune Talk (pre-paid mobile telephony) and Tune Money (insurance and finance). Fernandes was also the major mover and key partner in the effort to locate a campus of Britain’s prestigious Epsom College in Malaysia. It is a venture close to his heart, as he was once a student at the boarding school in Surrey, UK.

Fernandes expressed delight at the news of the CBE. “I’m grateful to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for the honour. It is a recognition of the hard work, determination and effort on the part of all my partners, colleagues and staff in AirAsia, Tune Group and Team Lotus. We have a terrific bunch of talented people working with us to make things happen in whatever venture we undertake. This is as much their award as it is mine.”

The CBE is the second major award conferred on Fernandes in Europe. In 2010, the French government conferred upon him the title of Officier of the Légion d’honneur, the highest award for a non-French national, for his outstanding contributions to the aviation industry. Fernandes was also recently named “Asia Businessman of the Year 2010” by the international magazine Forbes, and has gathered a slew of other top awards from private bodies and media organisations for his innovative approach to business.

The man whose personal credo is “Dream the Impossible, Believe the Unbelievable and Never Take No for an Answer” believes deeply in providing opportunities throughout his businesses for talent to flourish, for meritocracy to reign and for helping people realise their dreams. “I realised mine, and I am determined to help others realise theirs, too,” said Fernandes.

His business philosophy is simple: Serve the Underserved. It’s a philosophy encapsulated in AirAsia’s memorable tag line: “Now Everyone Can Fly.” Having democratised air travel by freeing it from the clutches of the elite, Fernandes is determined to break down the affordability barrier in other aspects of daily life – hence Tune Hotels, Tune Money and Tune Talk – and the Epsom College campus in Malaysia.

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