2 December 2011
On Wednesday night, a day after MAHB explained why it would cost RM3.6 billion to RM3.9 billion to build klia2, AirAsia boss Fernandes fired yet another salvo. This time, his target was not the use of aerobridges, the high cost of klia2 or the MPs who questioned the AirAsia-MAS share swap. Instead, he was gunning for the rise in passenger service tax (PSC).
In his tweet, he said: “To all Malaysians. AirAsia has made flying affordable for all. Before, it was just for the rich. We won’t allow Malaysia Airports to keep wasting money and increase charges for you. We will fight. Our campaign starts tomorrow.”
Yesterday morning, many AirAsia customers received an e-mail with the headline “Say NO to AIRPORT TAX INCREASE.” This is the latest effort by Fernandes to garner support against MAHB over the airport operator’s recent move to raise the passenger service tax (PSC).
Initially, AirAsia was against collecting the passenger service tax (PSC) on behalf of MAHB. However, yesterday, the airline announced that it would continue to do so. Interestingly, it was MAS AirAsia’s new partner that first wrote to MAHB to say it wouldn’t collect the passenger service tax (PSC) effective Dec 1.
Not long after that, it reversed the decision. Similarly, AirAsia’s sister company, AirAsia X, had also send a similar letter to say it would not collect, but as soon as it was faxed over, it was withdrawn.
To recap, airport tax is imposed by the airport operator and is regulated by the Government. The world over, any traveller wanting to depart from any airport has to pay taxes for the use of airport facilities. The rates vary from country to country.
MAHB only got to raise the passenger service tax (PSC) after nine years of trying to convince the Government to give the greenlight. The new rates are RM25 to RM32 for travel via low-cost carrier terminal, which translate to a RM7 raise, and RM51 to RM65 (RM14 hike) for other airports in the country.
The next review is due in 2016, said MAHB managing director Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad at a recent briefing. He made it clear that the rate would remain even though the company is building a new airport for low-cost travel.
By turning to the passengers, Fernandes wants the travelling public to be the jury in deciding if the RM7 increase in the passenger service tax (PSC) is justified. His critics, on the other hand, have pointed out that AirAsia and AirAsia X too have introduced charges that can be a burden, such as the RM10 fee for counter check-ins.
AirAsia’s very public attacks against MAHB is seen as a power struggle, and in most power struggles, there are losers. The question in this case is what will be the consequences if Bashir loses and what would it mean for MAHB; and if Fernandes loses, what would be his next move?
It is unfortunate that both parties cannot seem to work things out amicably. Perhaps they should spell out exactly why MAHB needs to raise the passenger service tax (PSC) and why Fernandes is so against the move.
MAHB and AirAsia should remember that both are Malaysian companies, and while both want to be seen to be doing their jobs MAHB needs to make money in managing airports and Fernandes needs to make sure travellers do not pay more they can avoid outburst in the public domain.
It is about time they bury the hatchet and find a solution that benefits all.
Deputy news editor B.K. Sidhu is amazed at the magnitude of work involved in building klia2.