AirAsia group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes lambasted the Transport Ministry for announcing an increase in airport tax, or passenger service charge, without prior consultation with players in the industry. He said AirAsia will appeal against the hike in order to lessen the burden on passengers and to encourage more people to fly.
On Aug 11, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha confirmed a report in theSun that airport tax would be increased soon. He said Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), the operator of Malaysia’s 39 airports, would make an announcement on the hike in due course.
In an interview with China Press published today, Fernandes express disappointment that AirAsia, as the biggest client of MAHB, was not given prior notice or consulted on the impending hike. He said the authorities concerned should have sought the views of players in the aviation industry or at least informed AirAsia.
“I have spent so much time fighting for lower charges, the Transport Ministry instead raised the airport tax … How would it help the people?” he lamented.
Fernandes, who has turned rival Malaysia Airlines into a partner early this month, said he believed the national carrier would also not be happy with an airport tax hike.
He felt that the ministry should help airports attract higher passenger flow but it is doing the opposite.
He opined that it would be better to levy RM50 service charge to attract 20 million passengers than to charge RM100 but get only 10 million passengers, as passengers also spend at the airports’ fast-food outlets and duty-free shops. “If I own airports, I would charge only RM5 (in airport tax), to attract 30 million, (or even) 40 million passengers,” he told the paper.
On another note, Fernandes brushed off the view expressed by many that the partnership forged between AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines would see an end to low-fare flights, saying “this is not our principle”. “The AirAsia DNA is to make airfares cheaper so that more people can fly.”
And to fight to maintain the lower fares, he reiterated, the low-cost carrier will appeal against the impending airport tax hike. He explained that fewer people would fly once airfares go up as a result of higher airport tax, which goes against the government’s aim of promoting tourism to attract more tourist arrivals, as well as its vision of turning Malaysia into a regional aviation hub.
Asked if the AirAsia-MAS tie-up is the prelude to a merger, Fernandes discounted such a possibility, saying it would be a “disaster” to do so.
On the possibility of him infusing the “AirAsia” culture in MAS following the tie-up, Fernandes said there is no need for AirAsia to bring in anything to MAS. However the two companies would clearly be "closer” and would learn from each other from now on.
Meanwhile, contacted by the daily for comment on Fernandes’ remark, Kong said it is MAHB’s right to increase airport tax, and it is not a decision of the ministry. Earlier, he said MAHB was given the green light to increase airport tax in 2009 but did not implement it.