AirAsia says KLIA2 not all bad, can still be visitor magnet if MAHB, Mavcom ‘listen’

AirAsia Berhad and AirAsia X chief executive officer Riad Asmat (left) and Benyamin Ismail (right) speak during an interview with Malay Mail in Petaling Jaya October 31, 2019. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
AirAsia Berhad and AirAsia X chief executive officer Riad Asmat (left) and Benyamin Ismail (right) speak during an interview with Malay Mail in Petaling Jaya October 31, 2019. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PETALING JAYA, Nov 2 ― The AirAsia Group believes the systemic inefficiencies dogging Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) could be rectified to optimise the low-cost terminal’s potential if regulators pay attention to feedback.

AirAsia Berhad and AirAsia X chief executive officer Riad Asmat and Benyamin Ismail told Malay Mail in a recent interview that the country’s main low cost carrier is more than willing to cooperate in the matter, especially with Visit Malaysia 2020 under two months away.

The two said the AirAsia Group remains keen to ensure next year’s major tourism push succeeds, even as it initiated legal action against Malaysian Airport Holdings Berhad (MAHB) in a RM480 million suit, and blamed the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) for it.

“You saw what Tony tweeted,” Riad said when the two visited Malay Mail’s office here on Thursday, referring to AirAsia Group founder and chairman Tan Sri Tony Fernandes. 

“Go ahead and hate me, but please work with my guys. We want to help too, and we can make this work.”

“Of course we can work together,” he said.

“In fact we still feel we will have to but they also need to be open.”

In a separate report of the duo’s interview with Malay Mail, Riad and Benyamin explained the reasons underpinning AirAsia’s frustration with MAHB and Mavcom.

At the heart of their grievances was AirAsia’s fundamental disagreement with KLIA2 itself.

From the very start, AirAsia has opposed the idea, saying the RM4 billion cost was too expensive and that it anticipated carriers and passengers to bear most of the financial burden.

Pointing to the constant increase in passenger service charge (PSC), the carrier argued that this was a result of MAHB trying to offset the exorbitant cost to build KLIA2.

AirAsia claimed MAHB, and to a large extent Mavcom, was hurting Malaysian tourism by increasing the PSC.

Up until recently, AirAsia had refused to collect the PSC but later reversed the decision after it lost the case to MAHB, with the High Court ordering the carrier to pay RM40 million in uncollected arrears.

The carrier claimed the charges were an additional burden to budget travelers, already forced to pay other form of levies like arrival visas and the newly imposed departure and tourism taxes.

All this adds up to what Riad and Benyamin said the frustration with navigating through the maze-like KLIA2. They said the design of the airport itself was “not conducive”, citing repeated complaints over the long lines at immigration counters at peak hours as but one example.

If left unaddressed, Riad stressed that KLIA2 could face serious complications to deal with the surge in foreign tourists inflow when Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign kicks off in just two months time.

“Can KLIA2 deal with the volume if better managed? I definitely think so,” he said.

“But they just have to work with all stakeholders.”

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