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LETTER | AirAsia and Mavcom's misleading stand on refunds

LETTER | I refer to your news dated 10 June 2022 titled 'AirAsia Aviation Group says refunds nearly completed'.

Capital A Group CEO Tony Fernandes said “AirAsia airlines have already paid back nearly everyone. AirAsia has opened the world to so many people and the majority of our guests decided to take a credit shell to help us which we thank them for. Now that travel restrictions have been removed substantially in our major markets, we saw that many of our guests have already utilised their credit shells to start travelling again.”

AirAsia X CEO Benyamin Ismail said “It’s great to be back in the air after two long years in hibernation. We have resumed flights to Sydney, Delhi and Seoul already and are planning to announce a number of new routes in the near future to our most popular destinations and even more.

“We understand the frustration from our guests who were waiting for reimbursement caused by flight cancellations during the pandemic. However, we are ensuring they get back what they paid for future use, in the form of full credits for such amounts paid, by way of travel vouchers.”

Two years ago, I booked an AirAsia flight to Australia. However, the flight was cancelled by AirAsia due to the Covid-19 pandemic. AirAsia then decided to issue credit accounts without offering other refund options.

The truth is that all passengers like me wanted a refund and not by way of a credit account or travel voucher. By holding back passengers’ money, can AirAsia clarify what it really meant by saying that it has already paid back almost all passengers?

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “refund” means an amount of money that is given back to you, especially because you are not happy with a product or service that you have bought and “reimbursement” means the act of paying back money to someone who has spent it for you or lost it because of you, or the amount that is paid back.

AirAsia’s stand on refund by way of issuing credit accounts or travel vouchers is grossly unfair to air travel consumers due to the following reasons:

(1) It is neither a refund nor a reimbursement and is also in violation of the refund procedure set out by the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom)

(2) It is issued solely in the interest and benefit of AirAsia

(3) The flights were cancelled by AirAsia

(4) The Covid-19 pandemic affected all parties including the passengers like me

(5) AirAsia has no legal right to retain passengers’ money after failing to deliver services as promised

(6) AirAsia denied air travel consumers’ right to a refund,

(7) Refund is merely on tickets purchased and not compensation on other travelling expenses and accommodation bookings

(8) The use of credit accounts is subjected to the biased terms and conditions of AirAsia

(9) All passengers were forced to receive credit accounts without other refund options

(10) All passengers are forced to fly again at higher fares as the original offer and acceptance have expired

Obviously, AirAsia’s stand on refund is misleading and needs clarification as there are many local and international passengers like me whose cases were also considered resolved by AirAsia but are still waiting for a true refund from AirAsia. I hope that no other companies in any industry are allowed to follow AirAsia’s stand on refunds by way of issuing credit accounts.

I then lodged a complaint with Mavcom regarding AirAsia’s rejection of my request for a refund. I was surprised and disappointed that Mavcom also rejected and closed my case without giving any valid reasons and asked me to deal directly with AirAsia myself.

However, what puzzled me most is that Mavcom published an announcement on its official website as follows:

QUOTE

Mavcom to exercise its statutory powers if AirAsia X Berhad does not reimburse air travel consumers for tickets purchased

In line with the Mavcom mandate to regulate economic and commercial matters relating to civil aviation in Malaysia and its commitment to protecting air travel consumer rights, Mavcom, on Nov 11, 2021, had issued a letter to AirAsia X Berhad (AAX) in response to its ongoing debt restructuring exercise. This letter follows from Mavcom's earlier correspondence with AAX.

In this letter, Mavcom has clearly and unequivocally urged AAX to reassess its proposal to treat air travel consumers as creditors and to pay only 0.5 percent of the value of tickets purchased as announced onOct 18, 2021.

Mavcom takes the view that air travel consumers ought not to be classified as “creditors” as the air travel consumers did not, inter alia, sell any products, provide services or make loans to AAX but instead have paid monies for the purchase of tickets in advance of their flights.

Accordingly, Mavcom reiterates its position that AAX should reimburse air travel consumers for the tickets purchased.

If AAX fails to reimburse the affected air travel consumers accordingly, Mavcom will not hesitate to exercise its powers under the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act 2015 (Act 771).

AAX has repeatedly in its correspondence with Mavcom and in their statements made to the public, given the assurance that AAX is committed to reimbursing air travel consumers who were not able to fly due to flight cancellations.

Mavcom is committed to discharging its duties under Act 771 and the Malaysian Aviation Consumer Protection Code in ensuring that air travel consumer rights are safeguarded.

UNQUOTE

Obviously, Mavcom’s stand on AirAsia’s refund policy is also misleading and needs clarification as there are many local and international passengers like me whose cases were also considered resolved by AirAsia but are still waiting for a true refund from the company.

I am seeking your assistance to highlight this matter for the benefit of many affected air travel consumers.


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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