AirAsia seeks RM400 mil in counter claims from airport operator

PETALING JAYA: Low-cost carrier AirAsia is seeking more than RM400 million in counter claims from Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), a month after the airport operator sued the former and its long-haul affiliate AirAsia X Bhd (AAX) over outstanding taxes.

In a statement today, it said the counter claims were for losses and damages experienced by AirAsia and its sister-concern due to operational disruptions at klia2.

The disruptions include a ruptured fuel line which impeded operations at Pier P for more than a month at klia2 from Oct 11, 2016, to Nov 22, 2016; closures at Runway 3 on numerous occasions in 2018; and losses incurred due to additional aircraft towing requirements and fuel costs, delays, and flight cancellations.

Meanwhile, in their statement of defence, AirAsia and AAX applied for MAHB’s suit to be struck down, saying it was “misconceived and premature” as MAHB had not complied with the statutory provisions for dispute resolution within the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) Act 2015.

AirAsia Berhad CEO Riad Asmat and AirAsia X Berhad CEO 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. MAHB is well aware of this and prior to filing the suit, had engaged AirAsia in both oral discussions and written correspondence. “However, MAHB has chosen to improperly circumvent the Mavcom Act by filing the suit.”

The Act states that legal action may only be used as a last resort after mediation and dispute resolution efforts fail.

“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.”

They added that in addition to the losses and damages incurred by AirAsia, travellers flying from klia2 should not be made to pay the same airport tax as those departing from KLIA due to inferior services at klia2.

Airport tax at klia2 was increased to RM73 from RM50 for non-Asean international passengers and to RM11 from RM6 for domestic passengers – equalising the rates at klia2 and KLIA.

“MAHB does not provide the same level of service at klia2, where AirAsia operates from, compared with KLIA, which is a terminal for full-service carriers. It is for this reason that we have refused to collect the higher airport tax imposed by MAHB on non-Asean international passengers departing from klia2,” Riad and Benyamin said.

“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.”

In December last year, MAHB sued AirAsia and AAX for a combined RM36.11 million in outstanding airport taxes.

Referring to the airport tax, AirAsia maintained that MAHB had not performed its task in managing costs in building klia2, leading to cost overruns which the airport operator was now seeking to recover from the travelling public by charging higher airport taxes.