Tony Fernandes says met EPF to explain AirAsia-MAHB spat

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KUALA LUMPUR (Feb 19): AirAsia Group Bhd group chief executive officer (CEO) Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said today he had a meeting with the Employees Provident Fund's (EPF) senior officials to explain the budget airline's stand on the AirAsia-Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) airport tax dispute.

Fernandes said via Twitter today that AirAsia told EPF CEO Tunku Alizakri Alias and senior executives that the airline wants its low-cost model to be appreciated and MAHB to partner AirAsia in promoting low-cost airports.

"Good meeting with senior executives and CEO of EPF. Very supportive and appreciative of us coming. Explained we are very happy to meet MAHB at any point. All we want is our low cost model to be appreciated and (MAHB) to truly partner us. To have low fares you need low costs. To have low costs you need a simple airport. To have low fares you need low airport tax to allow everyone to fly.

"There is so much momentum on low cost airports. I think for consumers, airport tax is only going down. Most countries want low cost terminals. They now see the fact that airports don't fit all and that to really capture both markets, they need low cost airports and full service airports," Fernandes tweeted.

Fernandes tweeted this today after Alizakri said yesterday the EPF is very concerned about the AirAsia-MAHB airport tax dispute, which has become very public.

Alizakri said the disagreement reflects badly not only on both companies but also on Malaysia.

theedgemarkets.com quoted Alizakri as saying that while the EPF had sent letters to AirAsia and MAHB to express the fund's concern over the matter, the EPF is not in a position to arbitrate in the dispute and instead is acting as a typical concerned investor.

The airport tax, or passenger service charge (PSC), has been a point of contention between MAHB and AirAsia group for many years, defined by the occasional war of words in the press and on social media.

The Edge Malaysia Weekly, in its Jan 28, 2019-Feb 3, 2019 issue, reported that AirAsia had in January 2019 filed its counterclaim, seeking RM400 million in damages in response to a lawsuit brought against it by MAHB on Dec 11, 2018.

It was reported that MAHB is suing the low-cost carrier group for a combined RM36.11 million in outstanding PSC collection via two parallel civil suits in the Kuala Lumpur High Court.