Thursday, June 25, 2009

Government Appoints Consultant To Resolve Airport Tax Arrears Issue

24 June 2009

KUALA LUMPUR -- The government has appointed a consultant to resolve the issue of airport tax arrears of RM65 million owed by AirAsia Bhd to Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB).

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the government has studied the matter and it would be used as a basis to resolve the problem.

"There is still a gap between AirAsia and MAHB and we have appointed a consultant to find the middle path ... it has been studied now by the government and we will use that as a basis to resolve the problem between them.

"It will be seen as an objective, we are not going to take side ... we will decide on the basis of principle," he said at a press conference after officiating at The National Baitulmal Convention 2009 at Masjid wilayah Persekutuan here Wednesday.

Najib, who is also finance minister, told the Dewan Rakyat Tuesday MAHB did not take any drastic action to claim the arrears owed by AirAsia because it would only affect the operation of the low-cost carrier terminal.

He said it would also give a negative impact to MAHB as the operator and manager of airports.

Najib said MAHB was in negotiations with the airline to resolve the matter, adding MAHB was confident in resolving the matter.

AirAsia Wants MAHB To Recommend Reduction In Airport Tax At LCCT

24 June 2009

KUALA LUMPUR -- Low cost carrier AirAsia Bhd, wants Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) to recommend a reduction in airport tax to the government for international passengers, at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT)

Its group chairman Datuk Aziz Bakar said today that the current rate of RM51 charged for international travellers was unfair, and should be reduced to RM10, as the LCCT did not have advantages such as aerobridges when compared to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).

"Malaysia Airports should be recommending to the government to lower the charge as it is the entity operating the airport," he told reporters on the sidelines of AirAsia's Major Tariff Adjustment launch here on Wednesday.

"The Minister of Finance, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, will have to consider this. We have invested a lot and are always expanding and lowering cost. We want to make Kuala Lumpur a hub for travellers," he added.

Aziz said AirAsia had helped bring about the multiplier effect to the country's economy through its passengers.

"If Malaysia Airports look at the bigger picture of the economy, what is a few ringgit in service charges?" he asked.

He said this when asked to comment on the issue of the RM65 million in airport tax owed by AirAsia to Malaysia Airports and which was brought up in Parliament on Tuesday.

"We have been paying the charges. But the RM65 million is part of the payment we are holding back, until we resolve this issue," he explained.

Thai AirAsia Targets 5.2 Million Passengers This Year

24 June 2009

BANGKOK-- Thai AirAsia, a subsidiary of Malaysia's AirAsia low-cost carrier, is confident of achieving its target of 5.2 million passengers this year, despite several hicups, including political instability, Influenza A(H1N1) and global economic recession.

Its chief executive officer, Tassapon Bijleveld, said the strong showing in the first quarter of the year -- where the company posted a 15 to 20 per cent growth as compared to the corresponding period last year -- had boosted their confidence.

"This growth was achieved, despite the Songkran riot (anti-government protests).

"But the market is weak currently, and we are doing our best to stimulate the market with such initiatives," he said, after announcing its parent company's move to waive the administration fee for passengers booking tickets with the airlines.

Tassapon is hopeful that waiving the administration fee (100 baht in Thailand) would boost ticket sales as passengers just needed to pay for ticket fare and airport tax, which is 50 or 100 baht for domestic routes and 700 baht for international flights departing from the Kingdom.

Last year, the airline carried 4.2 million passengers.

Tassapon said the Influenza A(H1N1) scare was affecting the market as the number of passengers had dropped. To date, the Thai Public Health Ministry has confirmed 985 such cases in the country.

"We hope to see signs of recovery within 60 days as people are cautious now because of the flu. But the key to travelling in Thailand is political stability and fortunately it's good now," he said.

Tassapon said the Phuket and Bali sectors were among the best routes served by the airline, adding that plans to make the island the second Thai hub after Bangkok, was expected to materialise by the fourth quarter of the year.

On its expansion plan, Tassapon said they were finalising plans to open several destinations in India and more cities in China, year end.

"We are aiming to tackle China and India as they are big markets. We intend to do that once we receive more Airbus planes by the end of the year," he said, adding that it currently had nine Airbus and six Boeings.

Malaysia AirAsia scraps admin fees to boost sales

24 June 2009

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Malaysian budget airline AirAsia on Wednesday abolished administrative fees on all its flights in a move to reduce fares and bolster sales amid the global slowdown.

AirAsia Chief Executive Tony Fernandes said scrapping the fee creates further savings for passengers as they will now pay only the fare and airport tax. AirAsia removed fuel surcharges in November last year.

The fee ranged from 22.5 ringgit ($6.40) to a maximum of around 43 ringgit per ticket and removing it will cost the airline 400 million ringgit ($113 million) a year.

Fernandes said the region's biggest budget carrier is confident it can increase ticket sales and generate income from other sources to offset the loss of revenue.

"It's been a tough six months for the airline industry but AirAsia is getting stronger and stronger. We believe we will increase our load factor and become more competitive," he told a news conference.

Airlines worldwide are reeling from the global economic slump that has choked passenger and cargo traffic. Many have cut capacity, grounded planes and shed their work force to cope with the downturn.

MAHB To Resolve Airasia's Airport Tax Debt Soon - Najib

23 June 2009

KUALA LUMPUR-- Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) did not take any drastic action to claim the arrears in airport tax owed by AirAsia because it will only affect the operation of the low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT), Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Tuesday.

Najib, who is also the finance minister, said it would also give a negative impact to MAHB as the operator and manager of airports.

As AsiaAsia has chalked up arrears of RM65 million, MAHB was in negotiations with the airline to resolve the matter, he said.

MAHB was confident of resolving the matter soon, he said in a written reply to Wee Choo Keong (PKR-Wangsa Maju) who had asked him to state why MAHB had accorded AirAsia the special privilege of owing RM65 million in airport tax as at Feb 28 this year when passengers had already paid the tax in advance.

Wee had also asked why, when Air Asia had been reporting making huge profits every year from its inception, there was a need for MAHB to negotiate with AirAsia over the settlement of the airport tax debt.

Banks reluctant to finance aircraft purchases

19 June 2009

Tony Fernandes, founder and CEO of AirAsia, said the biggest threat to the airline industry is not the outbreak of H1N1 influenza, commonly called swine flu. "We've been through [severe acute respiratory syndrome], bird flu, tsunami, you name it," Fernandes said. "The only swine now are bankers." Airlines are struggling to deal with banks that are unwilling to finance purchases of aircraft.