AirAsia’s and Mavcom’s stands on refund are misleading

by LEE TICK SENG

Dear sir,

I refer to your news dated June 10, 2022, titled “AirAsia Aviation Group’s pandemic refunds near completion” (https://themalaysianreserve.com/2022/06/10/airasia-aviation-groups-pandemic-refunds-near-completion/).

Capital A Group CEO Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes said AirAsia (AirAsia Aviation Group Ltd) airlines have already paid back nearly everyone and the majority of them decided to take a credit shell to help the airlines.

“Now that travel restrictions have been removed substantially in our major markets, we saw that many of our guests have already used their credit shells to start travelling again,” he said in a statement today.

Acknowledging the frustration from the guest, AirAsia X Bhd (AAX) CEO Benyamin Ismail said the company is now ensuring all guests 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 want a refund and not by way of credit account or travel voucher. By holding back passengers’ money, can AirAsia clarify what it meant by saying that it has already paid back almost all passengers?

According to 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 account or travel voucher is grossly unfair to air travel consumers as follows:

(1) it is not only neither a refund nor a reimbursement, but also in violation of Mavcom’s (Malaysian Aviation Commission) refund procedure,

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

(3) the flight was cancelled by AirAsia,

(4) Covid-19 pandemic affected all parties including 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 for a refund,

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

(8) the use of credit account is subjected to biased terms and conditions of AirAsia,

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

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

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:

Newsroom / News Releases / MAVCOM To Exercise Its Statutory Powers If AirAsia X Berhad Does Not Reimburse Air Travel Consumers for Tickets Purchased

MEDIA STATEMENT

To quote:

Spokesperson
Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM)
12 November 2021

MAVCOM To Exercise Its Statutory Powers If AirAsia X Berhad Does Not Reimburse Air Travel Consumers for Tickets Purchased

“In line with the Malaysian Aviation Commission (“MAVCOM”) mandate to regulate economic and commercial matters relating to civil aviation inMalaysia and its commitment to protecting air travel consumer rights, MAVCOM, on 11 November 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 per cent of the value of tickets purchased as announced on 18th October 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 reimburse 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.”

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 and (yet) are still waiting for a refund from AirAsia. I hope that no other companies in any industry are allowed to follow AirAsia’s stand on refund by way of issuing credit accounts.

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

Thank you.

Lee Tick Seng
Affected air travel consumer