AirAsia counterclaims MAHB for RM400m over alleged losses, damages sustained at KLIA2

In a statement, AirAsia alleged operational disruptions at low-cost terminal KLIA2 resulted in losses and damage to it and long-haul sister carrier AirAsia X Bhd (AAX). — Reuters pic
In a statement, AirAsia alleged operational disruptions at low-cost terminal KLIA2 resulted in losses and damage to it and long-haul sister carrier AirAsia X Bhd (AAX). — Reuters pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 23 — Low-cost carrier AirAsia Bhd announced today its counterclaim against operator Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), following the latter’s suit last year over outstanding airport taxes.

In a statement, AirAsia alleged operational disruptions at low-cost terminal Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) resulted in losses and damages to it and long-haul sister carrier AirAsia X Bhd (AAX).

It said it is seeking RM400 million in compensation.

AirAsia also accused MAHB of breaching the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) Act 2015 by filing a lawsuit, despite the statutory provisions requiring both the airport operator and airlines to first seek mediation to resolve any dispute.

“AirAsia has always been prepared to engage constructively with MAHB and its subsidiaries, and it is regrettable that MAHB has chosen litigation for reasons best known to them,” AirAsia chief executive Riad Asmat and his AAX counterpart Benyamin Ismail said in the statement.

“We maintain that the dispute over airport taxes, which is at the core of MAHB’s suit, is specifically a matter subject to Mavcom’s purview for mediation and dispute resolution.”

The airline chided MAHB for “improperly circumventing” the Act by filing its suit, despite previously engaging AirAsia in oral discussions and written correspondence.

“We will continue to adhere to the legislative provisions under the Mavcom Act and seek our claim through mediation. However, we reserve the right to exhaust all avenues in recovering losses and damages caused by MAHB’s failure to carry out their duties as aviation service providers.

“We have repeatedly communicated these and other issues to MAHB but nothing has been done,” the duo claimed.

AirAsia listed several of those alleged disruptions, including a ruptured fuel line which it said impeded operations at the airport’s Pier P between October 11 to November 22, 2016, and repeated closures at Runway 3 last year.

It also claimed incurring losses from additional aircraft-towing requirements and fuel costs, delays, manpower, flight cancellations resulting in the loss of revenue and taxiing costs.

AirAsia and MAHB have a tense relationship dating back to the airline’s rejection of the previous Low-Cost Carrier Terminal as its designated base of operations.

MAHB reportedly issued legal letters to both AirAsia and AAX in October last year to demand payment for the outstanding passenger service charge (PSC) for international departures owed since July 2018.

AirAsia has accrued around RM9.4 million in unpaid PSC while AAX was hit with a lawsuit seeking RM26.72 million for similar arrears.

Previously, AirAsia had said that it stopped collecting the PSC when MAHB announced that this would be raised from RM50 to RM73 at the start of 2018, as the airline disagreed that the fee should be the same at both the full-fledged KLIA and the low-cost terminal of KLIA2.

Despite that, AirAsia had previously charged customers a RM3 “KLIA2 fee”, which its group chief executive Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said was used to cover the company’s extra costs to operate in KLIA2. It stopped collecting the “fee” earlier this month.

Riad and Benyamin reiterated today that AirAsia is demanding that travellers flying from KLIA2 not be subject to the same airport tax implemented in KLIA, citing “inferior services” at KLIA2.

“Not only are the facilities and level of service at the two terminals not comparable, MAHB has also done a poor job of maintaining KLIA2, as evidenced by recent videos showing the presence of maggots and rats at the terminal,” they said.

Last month, AirAsia head of communications Mohd Aziz Laikar Ali was summoned by the police, and was scheduled to have his statement taken for “hurting” the image of Malaysia MAHB with his tweet criticising KLIA2’s allegedly poor hygiene.

The interview with the police was, however, cancelled at the last minute, after Fernandes accused MAHB of “bullying and threats” for lodging the police report against Mohd Aziz.

The Transport Ministry has since said it would intervene in the commercial dispute between AirAsia and MAHB, with minister Anthony Loke asking both parties to dial down their hostilities.

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