Lotus Racing team principal Tony Fernandes has been awarded the title of Officier of the Legion d'honneur by the government of France for his outstanding contributions to the aviation industry.

Dominique Bussereau, secretary of state for transport, conferred the title on the AirAsia Group CEO in a ceremony held in Paris and attended by some of the biggest names in European business. Established by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802 to recognise outstanding service to France, the award is the highest rank of honour that the government of France can award to a non-French citizen.

AirAsia has contributed largely to the French and European economies by supporting the European-owned and Toulouse-based Airbus, an EADS company. The airline has placed orders for 175 A320, 25 A330 and 10 A350 aircraft over the years, with an option to purchase 50 more A320 and five more A350 aircraft, and uses the brand extensively for its flights, including an all-Airbus fleet for its Malaysia-based operations.

In only eight years under the leadership of co-founder Fernandes, AirAsia grew its fleet from two aircraft to 92, its staff from 250 to 7000, and its routes from one to more than 132.