AirAsia's 'convenience fee' a rip-off

Dr Andrew Aeria

Modified 5 Nov 2009, 10:51 am

For some time now, AirAsia has been trumpeting the fact that customers only pay for their flight ticket costs and taxes. Its website loudly proclaims, ‘No Admin Fee, No Fuel Surcharge, All Destinations!’

Indeed, this fact is clearly seen in white reverse on a big red banner at the bottom of its main website and at various points during the online booking process.

Thus, imagine my consternation to discover that AirAsia recently decided to sneakily slip into its ticket charges a clandestine ‘convenience fee’ of RM5 per flight if one books a ticket via credit/ debit card! Excuse me but what ‘convenience’ exactly does this ‘fee’ give to those who buy tickets online?

It’s only after you enter all your credit/debit card details when purchasing tickets in their web- booking system that the ‘convenience fee’ suddenly appears.

AirAsia defines this ‘convenience fee’ as follows: ‘Convenience Fee: Please take note that this fee is chargeable at 5.00 MYR per passenger for each way when payment is made through credit card or debit card only’.

Which really is not much of an explanation. Instead, it’s just rhetoric, a vacuous statement reminiscent of unscrupulous retail traders charging their clients an extra service charge of between two to five percent on top of their advertised prices in shops – a sales tactic that is not only blatantly misleading and unfair but arguably illegal since businesses and their banker friends already make huge amounts of money from credit card users.

Pray tell AirAsia, has this charge been approved by the ministry concerned? Is it even legal? And why now when travellers have been purchasing tickets online ever since Day One of AirAsia’s launch over eight years ago? Why no ‘convenience fee’ previously?

Or is it because AirAsia is now trying to re-coup its desperate corporate losses from its loyal (and some would say ‘long-suffering’) customers given AirAsia’s inability to turn a profit on its business model due to overly ambitious expansion plans and shortsighted fuel-hedging policies?

Honestly, given the lack of competition and fair trade in Malaysia, we ordinary travellers and consumers suffer a lot of abuse. And it’s these kinds of sneaky business practices that really see AirAsia test the goodwill of its patrons who want to see the airline succeed for the long term.

It’s practices like this clandestine ‘convenience fee’ that demand the government enact a Fair Trade Act (like the one in Australia) that genuinely protects consumers from all unfair trade practices.

It is already irritating that the government has imposed a RM50 fee on all credit cards in the latest budget; a cockeyed ‘one-size fits all’ measure that punishes innocent and prudent credit card users along with all those who don’t know how to manage their finances.

AirAsia’s sneaky ‘convenience fee’ thus not only adds insult to the injury of all credit/debit card users but also seeks to emulate the government’s cockeyed one-size fits all approach of making travellers pay for the corporate bungles of its over-ambitious management.

It is also time we had a genuine open skies policy in Malaysia so that air travellers may receive value for money by benefitting from genuine competition in budget air travel.

And scrap the ‘convenience fee’. It’s just another rip-off!