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AirAsia retaliates against MAHB lawsuit with MYR400m claim

AirAsia and AirAsia X have filed motions to have a MYR36.4 million ($8.8 million) lawsuit brought against them by Malaysia Airports (MAHB) over unpaid passenger service fees struck out, and made a separate MYR400 million claim against the airport operator.

In December 2018, MAHB issued of a writ of summons for MYR9.4 million from AirAsia, and a MYR27 million claim against AirAsia X over unpaid passenger service charges.

In a statement, AirAsia describes the writ as "misconceived and premature", as MAHB "has not complied with the statutory provisions for dispute resolution" within the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act. As such, it is seeking to have the lawsuit struck out.

It adds that the Act states that legal action "may only be used as a last resort after mediation and dispute resolutions efforts have failed." While it acknowledges that discussions have taken place, it maintains that MAHB did not follow the proper dispute resolution process before launching its lawsuit.

In turn, the two carriers have started action under the Act, seeking mediation of a MYR400 million claim against the airport operator for losses and damages by the two airlines due to operational disruptions at the KLIA2 terminal at Kuala Lumpur International airport (KLIA).

These include ruptures to underground fuel lines at the terminal, and closures of KLIA's runway 3, which the carriers say resulted in additional towing and fuel costs, as well as flight cancellations and delays.

The MYR400 million claim is just the latest development in a series of disputes between AirAsia and MAHB around airport charges at KLIA.

AirAsia and its group chief executive Tony Fernandes have complained of high charges and poor infrastructure at the terminal. The airline has resisted a regulatory ruling that it should pay the same passenger charges as airlines using the main terminal at KLIA, arguing that the terminal is a low-cost facility and should be charged as such.

MAHB maintains that KLIA2 is not a low-cost terminal, but intended to provide more total capacity at the airport.

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