Skift Take

Nothing screams "official meeting" like a shirtless CEO getting a massage at his desk during a virtual conference call. The new normal?

The words “shirtless” and “official meeting” may not appear in the same sentence often, but trust AirAsia parent Capital A CEO Tony Fernandes to do things differently.

On Monday, Fernandes posted a shirtless picture of himself receiving a massage at his desk while attending a virtual meeting.

Praising Indonesia and the work culture at AirAsia that allowed him to get a massage while attending a management meeting, he wrote in a LinkedIn post, “Got to love Indonesia and AirAsia culture that I can have a massage and do a management meeting.”

Fernandes mentioned that AirAsia Indonesia CEO Veranita Yosephine had suggested the massage to him after what he said had been a “stressful week at work” and then goes on to mention having “finalized the Capital A structure.”

The LinkedIn post that started it all.

The post that has since been deleted has garnered a lot of attention and not all of it would be the kind Fernandes would have expected. Not surprisingly, the comments came in quickly.

The Response

Former strategy lead at Meta, Rebecca Nadilo, accused the AirAsia chief of deleting critical comments. “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. Please for their sake, listen to the comments you’ve deleted on this post. You are clearly a smart leader that cares about culture but this isn’t the way to create a supportive, safe one,” she wrote.

Some of the adjectives used to describe the picture have been “unprofessional,” “disrespectful,” “gross” and “inappropriate.”

“He should be setting an example of good work ethics and culture, not flaunting his body and privilege,” wrote one user.

“Everyone on the call, including our female management was asked if they are comfortable if he had a shoulder massage, after 18 hours of work. We have a fun, friendly and open culture at Capital A that values productivity, efficiency as well as transparency,” a spokesperson from the communications team at AirAsia said in a statement to media news site Marketing Interactive.

The spokesperson then went on to say that the image had been shared with full approval from the PR department, and no comments were intentionally deleted.

In 2021, the airline’s Thailand CEO Tassapon Bijleveld had been criticised on social media after a clip of him swearing at a female colleague at a townhall and telling her to “shut up” circulated online.

The video shows that Fernandes and AirAsia Digital president Aireen Omar had also been present during the meeting, but they did not call out Bijleveld’s behaviour at the time.

The airline had later apologized and told the media that it has a zero-tolerance policy towards inappropriate behavior of any kind which is never compromised.


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Tags: air asia, airline, asia monthly, linkedin, meta, tony fernandes

Photo credit: Tony Fernandes, pictured here wearing a shirt, has drawn attention for the wrong reasons again. AirAsia / AirAsia

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