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AirAsia-Bung Mokhtar spat exposes East Malaysian issues

 | November 25, 2017

The spat reveals the many challenges faced by East Malaysians, who have little choice but to accept the meagre pickings offered to them.

COMMENT

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Businesses beware! In the run-up to the 14th general election (GE14), your business model could very likely become an easy target for exploitation by unscrupulous politicians.

You could be selling rice or houses, or providing a service such as driving taxis or running an airline; the business is immaterial as your trade could very well end up as campaign fodder for GE14.

Politicians prefer to indulge in company-bashing in the run-up to the general election, when by right, they should be addressing the concerns of the rakyat with respect to issues of overcharging or poor services at all times, not only just before an election.

Kinabatangan MP Bung Mokhtar claimed that, at an airport in his home state of Sabah, he saw villagers who arrived late for boarding forced to purchase new tickets.

He also alleged that a one-way ticket from Sandakan to Kuala Lumpur could cost as much as RM2,000.

He said, “The villagers complained (that they had) no money, so I gave a bit. Luckily, I have (money)… I don’t know how they can win the best flight (award), for several consecutive years. If I were to rate them, I would not give them any marks.”

He was dismissive of the claim that AirAsia is a low-cost carrier. Such was his fury that Deputy Transport Minister Abdul Aziz Kaprawi was prompted to act on Bung’s complaint.

The government will commence investigations into allegations AirAsia had overcharged fares during peak travel times.

Abdul Aziz also claimed AirAsia was taking advantage of one segment of the community, and that the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) would act to stop the profiteering by AirAsia.

On hearing about the Mavcom investigation, AirAsia’s group chief executive officer, Tony Fernandes, took to social media to hit back at the allegations.

Fernandes dismissed “the MPs who never stop complaining” for their failure to recognise AirAsia’s efforts to help East Malaysia. He reminded Malaysians that AirAsia was the first to operate the direct Sandakan to Kuala Lumpur route.

He was grateful that three ministers had used AirAsia to fly to Sarawak, and that they had not complained that they had been overcharged.

He also took a swipe at the MPs who refused to complain about Malaysia Airport Holdings Berhad (MAHB), which had increased its fees, a move that ultimately affected passengers.

Do not let the public spat between Fernandes and Bung deceive you. One should not be distracted by exorbitant airline fares. One should wonder instead why Bung chose to complain about this issue now.

This is not the first, nor will it be the last time that airlines have overcharged their passengers.

The airline industry is not the only one overcharging. Some goods, especially in East Malaysia, are overpriced. Where are the MPs to complain too about shoddy materials and services?

Many products cost more in East Malaysia because of transport costs, but some companies take advantage of the situation and overcharge because the consumer has little choice but to accept what is on offer.

Bung may have a legitimate complaint, but if we were to dig deeper into the airline industry, we would see that the customer service of AirAsia leaves much to be desired. People have great difficulty trying to contact the airline for a refund or to make a complaint.

Many politicians appear to address an issue only when it suits them, as in this case, which is just before GE14. It does seem like Bung is playing politics and trying hard to appease the electorate.

In the final analysis, it is not just about being overcharged by a budget airline. The Fernandes-Bung Mokhtar spat exposes many problems such as customer service and opportunistic MPs.

Most importantly, it also reveals the many challenges faced by East Malaysians, who have little choice but to accept the meagre pickings offered to them.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

Bung lashes out at airline companies serving Sabah

Deputy minister: Mavcom to look into claims on AirAsia charges

Bung tells AirAsia CEO to check ticket prices during CNY

AirAsia: RM2,000 for one-way ticket ‘completely untrue’


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