Malaysia

Tony Fernandes’ car is ground zero in airport tax hike spat

SEPANG, Dec 2 — Parked just outside Coffee Bean at the low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) here is an unlikely focal point of AirAsia’s fight against a recent airport tax hike — a white Peugeot 308cc.

Prevented from putting up anti-tax hike displays in the terminal, AirAsia staff have transformed their boss Tan Sri Tony Fernandes’ convertible into a striking display for the campaign, armed with nothing but posters and a miniature Christmas tree.

AirAsia staff take a group photo with Fernandes’ car at the LCCT on December 2, 2011. — Picture courtesy of Adam LeeAirAsia staff take a group photo with Fernandes’ car at the LCCT on December 2, 2011. — Picture courtesy of Adam LeeAn equally festive message on the bonnet read, “Help Tony share the holiday spirit. Take a picture for beautiful, lasting memories,” and urged the public to share their photos on AirAsia’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Several groups of AirAsia staff were seen posing for pictures next to the makeshift billboard.

Malaysian Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) staff were also seen taking photos of the car from afar with digital cameras.

This latest publicity stunt by the budget airline comes just a day after MAHB clamped down on AirAsia’s anti-tax hike campaign materials at the terminal.

The airport operator had removed posters and confiscated stickers protesting the levy on the grounds that unauthorised display materials were no allowed in the terminal.

AirAsia appears to have taken MAHB’s message to heart, proceeding at pace today to decorate all privately owned property — including Fernandes’ car — with its trademark red-and-white posters and stickers.

“We are not violating anything by putting the (campaign) materials on the car, which belongs to Tony.

“Whatever it is, it’s private property,” an AirAsia spokesman told The Malaysian Insider.

AirAsia staff at the sales counter could also be seen wearing the stickers on their uniforms and placing them on boarding passes and luggage tags.

While few members of the public took photos of the car, many were supportive of AirAsia’s campaign.

“I think putting the posters on the car is genius. You can’t put them in the airport so put it on private property,” said Felixon Jawing from Kuching.

The 18-year-old student admitted he did not know much about the airport tax hike but said he felt any increase would be a burden on passengers.

Balan, 60, a plantation manager who flies to east Malaysia often, said it was good the airline was attempting to put the tax hike in the public spotlight.

“If the tax goes up, definitely it will affect everybody, so definitely we support this,” he said.

“I think he has a lot of public support. We are flying in and out and the tax will be a problem.”

The Transport Ministry recently gave MAHB the green light to raise passenger service charges by 28 per cent, and aircraft parking and landing charges by nine and 18 per cent respectively over three years.

Airport taxes at Penang, Kuching and Langkawi will rise to RM65 from RM51, and to RM32 from RM25 at low-cost carrier terminals (LCCTs) in Sepang and Kota Kinabalu.

An agreement signed between MAHB and the Transport Ministry in February 2009 set a benchmark airport tax rate of RM65, excluding LCCTs, with the government compensating the airport operator for any difference.

AirAsia has questioned whether the increases were justified based on the quality of the terminals, but MAHB has maintained its airport charges were already the lowest in the region.

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