AirAsia and Malaysia Airports in $18.4m tax dispute

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Malaysia-based low cost carrier AirAsia and Malaysia Airports Holdings are embroiled in a dispute over airport taxes at Kuala Lumpur's low cost terminal.

According to Malaysia's official news agency, Bernama, AirAsia owed MYR65 ($18.4 million) in unpaid airport taxes as of 28 February.

The dispute came to light yesterday when Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, replying to a query in parliament on Tuesday, said that the government-owned MAHB has not taken "drastic action" to reclaim the arrears as this would not be in the interest of the low cost terminal.

Najib, who is also the finance minister, was quoted as saying in another Bernama report that a consultant has been appointed to resolve the issue.

"There is still a gap between AirAsia and MAHB and we have appointed a consultant to find the middle path," he said.

When contacted by ATI, an AirAsia spokesman declined to comment on the matter and said that the airline would issue a statement soon. He did, however, confirm comments by AirAsia group Chairman Aziz Bakar that the current tax of RM51 per passenger for international travellers is unfair, and that it should be reduced to RM10.

"Malaysia Airports should be recommending to the government to lower the charge as it is the entity operating the airport," Bakar reportedly told journalists on the sidelines of a press conference. "We have invested a lot and are always expanding and lowering costswe have been paying the charges, but the RM65 million is part of the payment we are holding back until we resolve this issue."

ATI was unable to reach Malaysia Airports for a comment.