Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Is the taxpayer paying for AirAsia’s marketing costs?

I received an email from AirAsia recently, proclaiming “No Airport Tax”.

Quite ironic, considering that Prime Minister and Finance Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak on June 23 in a written reply to Wee Choo Keong (Wangsa Maju – PKR) said Malaysia Airports is negotiating with AirAsia on RM65m of airport taxes that Air Asia owes. “Drastic action cannot be applied … on AirAsia as it would affect the operations at the low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) and cause a negative result on MAHB as operator and manager of the airport.”

Subsequently, the Edge Daily on June 25th reported the government had appointed a consultant to find a middle path in the dispute between AirAsia and Malaysia Airports. Another consultant? Why? PM Najib has confirmed AirAsia is in arrears to the tune of RM65m.

What is there to discuss? Airlines collect airport tax from passengers just like your restaurant charges you the 5% government service tax. It is a tax collected by the private sector on behalf of the government. The Customs and Excise department quite rightly goes after restaurants and other businesses who charge that 5% but don’t remit the sum to the government. No negotiations. You remit what you collected. Why the special treatment for AirAsia? Its passengers had all paid the airport tax when booking their flights. It is money that they believed was going to the airport, not to AirAsia.

Now Air Asia is offering a “No Airport Tax” promotion. Is AirAsia really absorbing the airport tax? Or is it going to tell Malaysia Airports later on that it cannot afford to pay? In which case, this promotion is being sponsored by the taxpayer!

Air Asia already benefits from extremely one-sided contract terms which are unfair to consumers. Let’s not add taxpayer support .

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