Cool down Tony Fernandes says Rafidah Aziz

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KUALA LUMPUR – Timeliness and a concrete black-and-white commitment on fixed airport charges in the new low-cost carrier terminal is needed to cool down the ongoing tension between AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), says Rafidah Aziz.

The chairman of AirAsia X, the long-haul unit of AirAsia, said the no-frills airline was seeking two concrete commitments from the airport operator, first on when the new airport would be ready for operations and second, that airport charges would not be raised once the new terminal is ready.

“Of course, we know that they [MAHB] now need some extension time. We have taken that on board but before that [AirAsia relocating to KLIA2] we would like to get some commitment.

“If there is any increase in airport charges, it will be very unfair to airlines, especially AirAsia and AirAsia X, as we will then have to increase charges. But, we are a low-cost airline and we cannot bear the additional charges,” Rafidah said, adding that both airlines have suspended routes to several destinations because of higher airport charges.

Asked whether AirAsia Bhd was demanding a service-level agreement (SLE), the former international trade and industry minister said “as long as there is something in black and white to say the charges would not be raised, it’s fine with us”.

“We want to make it [agreement] even stronger, we can have a legal agreement. But, that is not the current problem. To me a legal agreement is the least of our problems,” she said.

The new low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) will cost between RM3.6 billion and RM3.9 billion and is scheduled to be operational in April 2013, after several delays.

KLIA2, initially scheduled for operations this year, will be the largest low-cost carrier terminal when it is completed April next year, and handle 45 million passengers, three times the capacity, of the current LCCT.

Much of the airport revenue is expected to be generated from retail sales and KLIA2 will have 50,000 square metres of commercial space.

Price-sensitive Fernandes had been very vocal on the rising cost of the new airport, for fear that the extra cost will be passed to AirAsia, the biggest tenant at KLIA2.

To this, Rafidah said two-way effective communication was important in the aviation business, and in this case, involved the airport operator and AirAsia.

Asked whether AirAsia was revisiting the suspended Indian routes, namely New Delhi and Mumbai, Rafidah said at the moment the low-cost airline was already looking at the possibility of increasing its frequencies to several existing routes in India, which has proven to be profitable.

“We cannot go there [Mumbai and New Delhi] because of the high airport charges. Because we are simply low fare, not only low cost. But if our cost is not under control, then low fare is not something to be promised,” she said. – Bernama