Photos by NEAL CORPUS
Sustainability is such a huge buzzword these days. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when you think about it, because it means that we as a society are finally waking up to the reality of global warming. But what does it really mean? The word is thrown around more and more loosely, sometimes just as a marketing ploy, which defeats the whole purpose. Sustainable this, eco-friendly that — you see it popping up in fashion, food, energy. But what about travel We never really think about it — I most certainly haven’t been — but going around the world creates a huge carbon footprint. Jet fuel, the energy and logistics of airport — it all adds up more than we think.
The low-cost airline AirAsia is well aware of this, and in their goal to provide more accessible flights to more people, they are making efforts to reduce the impact of their emissions. Earlier this month, a day after ASEAN Day, we took a trip to Bangkok to see AirAsia unveil its newest livery that symbolizes its commitment to sustainable travel. For the uninitiated (myself included), a livery is basically a decal on the body of a plane, a symbol of the airline’s branding.
In one of the hangars around BKK’s Don Mueang International Airport, AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandez revealed one of their planes with the words “Sustainable ASEAN Tourism” emblazoned on its side, along with the logo of the 2019 ASEAN Day celebration led by Thailand. I know what you’re thinking, and yes, there’s more to this sustainability campaign than some decal on a plane.
AirAsia’s new livery, the decal on the side of the plane, highlights the airline’s commitment to sustainable tourism.
There are a couple of things that AirAsia is doing to become more sustainable: First, they recently ordered a fleet of Airbus A320neos, a new version of the popular plane model that burns about 20-percent less fuel than its predecessors. They also have programs that promote sustainable tourism through the communities it flies to. One such program is Journey D, a long-term, community-based tourism project that helps local communities around ASEAN countries to build and establish what they call community-based tourism or CBT. Part of AirAsia’s objectives to prevent and clean up the “mess” they’ve helped create, the program brings in experts to hold masterclasses with the community’s service industry, to help them meet international standards in things like food, safety and hygiene, homestay management, and waste management.
RedQ, AirAsia’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, features a Google-esque design with an open layout and friendly atmosphere.
Journey D also helps in developing and marketing local products while preserving the culture of the community. Before Journey D comes in to help boost the tourism of a community, they ensure that the community meets certain criteria in things like natural and cultural and community-based resources, management, tourism services, geographical location, and more. This is because Journey D doesn’t swoop in and pump in money to a community so AirAsia can sell flights there; they want to make sure that the community can stand on their own and become sustainable and self-sustaining after the program. Then, before Journey D markets the place to tourists, their All Stars (AirAsia’s staff) run through the place and make sure that it’s up to standard
The program began only four years ago, and has helped nine communities across Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia. AirAsia hopes to bring the program to the Philippines by next year. Apart from Journey D, they also have a campaign in China called Me+ that asks Chinese tourists to do a sustainability pledge. We learned about all this at RedQ, AirAsia’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, a day ahead of the unveiling in Bangkok. It’s a very Google-esque office, with open layouts, a fast-moving yet friendly atmosphere, and — get this — a slide. Very much like walking into the set of The Internship. Much of the office contributes to a lively working environment that, as
I would like to think, figures well into their big-picture goals of overall sustainability. For example, self-care is a big thing in the building: they have sleeping pods, a full gym, massage services on the rooftop, a physio lab, and even counseling services. From the looks of it, with AirAsia’s commitment to sustainable tourism and caring work environment, the future of flying is not only low-cost, but green and nurturing, too.