LETTER | It is normal practice for airports around the world to levy passenger service charge (PSC), also known as airport tax, but not at train or bus stations. Why the discrepancy?
Would it be better for airports to abolish airport tax, or train and bus stations to introduce PSC? Introducing PSC would certainly be abhorred by train and bus passengers, but the rationale for charging is the same as airports.
Although most train stations are used by few rail operators, major bus stations are similar to airports, with many operators paying fees levied by the management.
If charging bus passengers for PSC at the Terminal Bersepadu Selatan is unthinkable, so is equalising PSC at KLIA2 with KLIA. After all, the long distance bus terminal in Kuala Lumpur also cost millions of ringgit to build.
Malaysians are fond of thronging shopping malls, especially over weekends and holidays, to enjoy the cool comfort and for window-shopping or just spending time, because they is no entry fee as malls management rely solely on rental from tenants for income.
This is not lost by rail operators, as many stations incorporate shopping facilities and earn rental income from tenants. But Malaysia Airport Holdings Berhad (MAHB) went all out by designing a huge shopping mall at KLIA2 located between the entrances right up to departure gates.
It was a clever way to derive additional income, similar to rail operators earning rental income from retail outlets to keep train fares low. But increasing PSC at KLIA2, intended to replace the initial low-cost carrier terminal which was bursting at its seams, leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
MAHB managing director Badlisham Ghazali (photo) said foreign passengers accounted for 75 percent of international departures at KLIA2 against percent of Malaysians. But this is no consolation, as the 25 percent represents a large number of Malaysians, and getting rid of incentive for foreigners to fly through KLIA2 would result in lesser visitors to Malaysia.
The number of visitors to Malaysia had not increased since 2014 when about 27.4m came to our shores. In 2015, it was around 25.7m, last year 26.7m, and is expected to be back to 2015 figures for this year.
Extra efforts should be made to woo visitors, but dismantling the last bastion of low-cost carrier terminal, which was instrumental in turning the international airport of Kuala Lumpur into a major budget carrier hub, is not one of them.
Badlisham also said: “If the services and facilities at KLIA2 are not comparable to KLIA, why then do international passengers feel that airport facilities in Penang, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Langkawi and Senai are different from that of KLIA2 but they have to pay the same charges?”
Passengers travelling through KLIA2 would not buy the reasons dished out for equalising PSC with KLIA and could only protest in vain. They have no option but to cough out whatever PSC is imposed on them, unlike customers of shopping malls.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.