In the hours of uncertainty after an AirAsia passenger jet went missing Sunday, the airline’s CEO quickly addressed the watching world via social media.
“This is my worse nightmare,” CEO Tony Fernandes posted on Twitter as a search and rescue operation was underway. “My only thought(s) are with the (passengers) and my crew. We put our hope in the SAR operation and thank the Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysian governments,” he wrote, referring to the search-and-rescue effort in the Java Sea along well-trafficked shipping routes.
That was one of a dozen tweets Fernandes sent or retweeted in the first 12 hours after Flight 8501 lost contact with air traffic controllers. The Airbus A320-200 was headed to Singapore from Indonesia with 162 on board, the airline said.
The posts were retweeted tens of thousands of times. Meanwhile, hashtags like “#AirAsia” and “#QZ8501,” the flight’s aviation code name, trended worldwide.
The CEO’s messages were aimed at families of the passengers, his staff and the public.
“I as your group ceo will be there through these hard times. We will go through this terrible ordeal together and I will try to see as many of you,” Fernandes wrote.
“Our priority is looking after all the next of Kin for my staff and (passengers). We will do whatever we can. We continue to pass information (as) it comes.”
He called his team “all stars” and urged them to “be strong, continue to be the best. Pray hard. Continue to do your best for all our guests. See u all soon.”
“I am touched by the massive show of support especially from my fellow airlines. This is my worse nightmare. But there is no stopping,” he wrote.
The airline’s official social media account responded, too. It posted regular updates to Twitter and Facebook. AirAsia changed its logo on social media from red to grey.
Fernandes has been with the company since its earliest days. In 2001, he and several partners bought an unprofitable air travel company — it owned just two planes — and turned it around, according to his company biography.
AirAsia’s approach was in contrast to the way Malaysia Airlines handled the disappearance of its Flight 370 earlier this year. Malaysia Airlines was criticized by the passengers’ families, who said they were given little information, and that some of what they were told was false.
Both companies are based in Malaysia.
–CNN’s Yousuf Basil contributed to this report