Court fixes March 26 to hear MAHB’s bid to strike out RM480m AirAsia suit

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on January 9, 2020.
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KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court has fixed March 26 to hear Malaysia Airports (Sepang) Sdn Bhd’s (MASSB) application to strike out the RM480 million suit filed by AirAsia Group Bhd and AirAsia X Bhd over alleged losses and damages caused by negligence at klia2.

“The judge has provisionally set March 26 as the next date to hear the strike-out application. This is a provisional date, however, so a different date may be set later,” Talitha Shim, an associate at Sreenevasan Young who appeared on behalf of AirAsia in court yesterday, told The Edge Financial Daily, after meeting with Justice Datin Rohani Ismail in chambers for case management.

Also present was Eric Gabriel Gomez of Skrine on behalf of MASSB, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB).

In November last year, MASSB applied to strike out the suit on the basis the plaintiffs’ claim amounts to a relitigation of a matter already determined by the High Court in previous legal proceedings raised by the plaintiffs as a set-off.

“The plaintiffs’ claim could have and should have been raised in previous legal proceedings as a counterclaim instead of as a set-off,” MASSB said in a court filing. It also said AirAsia and AirAsia X’s claim amounts to forum shopping and that the claim had been filed despite the plaintiffs having a pending judicial review appeal seeking an order for the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) to determine the same claim.

On Oct 2 last year, AirAsia and AirAsia X filed the lawsuit against MASSB, which manages and operates klia2, claiming RM479.78 million in losses and damages caused by negligence on the part of MASSB.

The low-cost airlines previously said they had sought mediation via Mavcom over their dispute with MASSB, adding that the commission refused to mediate and an attempt to seek a judicial review was dismissed.

Based on court documents sighted by The Edge Financial Daily, the plaintiffs claim that MASSB had breached its duty due to the existence of sinkholes at Runway 3 of the airport.

The sinkholes have made the runway unusable for the landing and taking-off of aircraft. The suit also highlighted surface depressions and ponding at the apron, parking bays and taxiways at klia2, causing damage to AirAsia X’s equipment, AirAsia’s aircraft, as well as personal injuries to AirAsia X’s employees when deploying equipment at the apron.

The airlines said there were frequent unplanned runway closures and prolonged operational disruptions between 2016 and 2018 at Piers P and Q at klia2 due to a ruptured underground fuel hydrant pipeline.

Excavation works in the vicinity of the airport also damaged fibre optic cables of their operations, causing a loss of Internet connectivity and disruption of communications systems for eight to 10 hours on July 19, 2018.