26 July 2019
by SHAZNI ONG/ pic by BLOOMBERG
AIRASIA Group Bhd hit back at the remarks from the Board of Airline Representatives Malaysia (BAR) on the firm’s ongoing dispute with Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), describing it as “inconsequential and self-serving”.
AirAsia CEO Riad Asmat said BAR has no ground in this issue as its member airlines do not operate from Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2).
“It is also not affected by the court decision, thereby rendering its comments inconsequential and immaterial,” he said in a statement yesterday.
“We don’t believe that BAR is capable of making positive contributions or comments, as it does not represent budget airlines or those who travel on budget airlines,” added Riad.
BAR, which claims to represent most of the airlines operating in Malaysia, recently welcomed the KL High Court’s decision to dismiss an application by AirAsia and AirAsia X Bhd to strike out suits by the airport operator over payment of outstanding airport tax.
The High Court ruled last week that AirAsia and AirAsia X must pay RM40.6 million in outstanding passenger service charges (PSC) — which the two airlines had refused to collect from passengers — to MAHB’s subsidiary Malaysia Airports (Sepang) Sdn Bhd. AirAsia is appealing the decision.
However, Riad said there is a misconception being encouraged that the AirAsia has defaulted in paying the amount claimed by MAHB.
“It must be stressed that AirAsia did not collect these monies from the passengers, as we believe they should not be burdened into unfairly paying for an inferior service as they would for the more well-equipped and spacious KLIA.
Instead, MAHB sued AirAsia to recover this uncollected amount,” he said.
Riad also believes that BAR’s views are skewed towards protecting full-service carriers’ commercial interests, while ignoring various issues faced by low-cost carriers (LCCs) in Malaysia.
“BAR should, instead of being biased, recognise that LCCs and LCC operations form an integral part of the nation’s aviation and tourism industries.
“They should look at the larger picture of growing Malaysia’s aviation industry and tourism sector, as espoused by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, rather than harp on their own narrow selfish interests,” he said.
BAR reportedly said AirAsia’s refusal to collect the PSC charges from passengers has led to an uneven playing field.
“In any other country, the stunt by AirAsia to not collect the mandated amount or withhold taxes and fees would have resulted in penalties, as well as their aircraft being impounded,” BAR was reported as saying. BAR is currently led by a representative of Malaysia Airlines Bhd.
It was also reported that MAHB CEO Raja Azmi Raja Nazuddin had welcomed the court’s decision, saying it meant MAHB could collect the PSC amount gazetted by the Malaysian Aviation Commission.
Riad said it is uncanny that the comments by Raja Azmi and BAR are similar.
“As far as AirAsia is concerned, their comments are based on proprietary interests and not in the interests of the travelling public.
“In the name of fair competition, as frequently propagated by Raja Azmi, MAHB should seriously consider building a dedicated and functional LCC terminal which charges lower rates like in Jakarta and Tokyo.
“This will provide the much-needed boost for the local aviation industry and position KL as a key aviation hub,” he said.
Based on MAHB’s passenger traffic data, of the 31.89 million passengers who went through klia2 in 2018, 30.91 million or 97% were carried by AirAsia.
For comparison, at the KLIA main terminal, which caters mainly to BAR’s full-service member carriers, only 28.1 million passengers passed through its gates in 2018.