14 September 2019
AirAsia Group Bhd has long had a tumultuous relationship with its landlord, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB). Both companies have clashed in the past over issues related to klia2, ranging from its location, cost and facilities to delays in its completion.
But the feud has escalated of late because of differences over the passenger service charge (PSC), triggering a lawsuit by the airport operator after the low-cost carrier (LCC) refused to collect the RM73 in PSC gazetted by the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) and stuck to the previous rate of RM50.
Not helping matters is AirAsia co-founder and group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes’ penchant for speaking his mind, often taking to social media to express his dissatisfaction and frustrations with MAHB.
Hopes that the establishment of an independent aviation regulator like Mavcom would help ease tensions between AirAsia and MAHB have also dissipated.
Fernandes, who admits to throwing his support behind Mavcom three years ago, believes the commission has failed in its role and does not understand the LCC business. AirAsia now seems to have an additional adversary in Mavcom.
We met Fernandes last Thursday at his home in Kuala Lumpur, which doubles up as his office. He greeted us in a short-sleeved white T-shirt with “Teleport” — the new name of AirAsia’s cargo and logistics business — printed on it and blue shorts.
After being told that he looked like he had lost weight, Fernandes said he has lost about 2kg since he contracted dengue two weeks ago.
He is recovering after being hospitalised for a week. “While I’m happy I have lost weight, it’s not enough,” he added, whose resolutions each year include shedding some weight.
The interview took place in a hall upstairs, one wall of which is covered with pictures of the accolades he and AirAsia have received over the years. Fernandes was in his usual feisty form during the interview, which ranged from the low-cost carrier’s struggles and achievements to what he thinks MAHB and Mavcom need to do or did not do.
From a small company with two aircraft in 2001, AirAsia has become the largest low-cost player in Asia with 272 planes.
But Fernandes is far from satisfied as he believes the carrier can grow faster with the support of the airport authorities. He lamented the ignorance of MAHB and Mavcom of the LCC model despite having the region’s largest low-cost airline as the main user at klia2, and said they should welcome the development of dedicated low-cost carrier terminals in the country.