AirAsia's long-haul arm AirAsia X has received a legal challenge from the operator of Malaysia's main air hub – Malaysia Airports – over unpaid airport fees at Kuala Lumpur Airport.

The Kuala Lumpur-based AirAsia X was sued by Malaysia Airports (Sepang) Holdings Berhad (MAHB) over RM78 million in outstanding airport fees, and requested to be excluded from the airline's proposed debt restructuring plan.

In a filing to the Kuala Lumpur High Court on October 23, MAHB stated: “The outstanding aeronautical charges comprise passenger service charges, passenger service security charges, aerobridge charges, aircraft parking charges, check-in counter charges, landing charges and late payment charges.”

Addressing the timing of the lawsuit amid AirAsia X and AirAsia Group's financial situation, MAHB further stated in a release on October 25 it is “pursuing its legal rights to recover the debt from AirAsia X which is critical for the upkeep and maintenance of the airports.” It added that the financial obligations amount to around 0.01% of AirAsia X's financial obligations.

MAHB also addressed its request to be removed as a creditor under AirAsia X's restructuring plans stating its view as being a secured creditor. AirAsia X's application was filed would apply to unsecured creditors per Malaysia's Company Act of 2016.

In response, AirAsia X stated the amount owed was mostly made of up RM23 difference per passenger in the Passenger Service Charge (PSC) that the airline never collected.

"We did not collect the RM23 in PSC from passengers based on an announcement by the Transport Ministry that the PSC will be reduced to RM50," said AirAsia X. AirAsia X added of incentives yet to be paid to the airline saying: "We did not collect the RM23 in PSC from passengers based on an announcement by the Transport Ministry that the PSC will be reduced to RM50.”

While acknowledging the challenges brought upon airlines including AirAsia X amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the aviation demand downturn, MAHB emphasized the importance of collecting the fees stating: “However, closing down the airports is not a conceivable option for the nation. Airports are strategic and critical national infrastructure and it has remained operational throughout the pandemic and will have to continue to survive to the best of its ability to serve the public and to ensure the country is not crippled in terms of connectivity. The Board of Malaysia Airports has the responsibility to act in the best interest of the company in order to protect its shareholders, the country’s air transport infrastructure and more than 10,000 people nationwide under the company’s employment.”

The lawsuit is the latest chapter of conflict between the AirAsia Group and Malaysia Airports. The first signs of tensions came about in 2011 between the two parties over the costs and capacity of AirAsia's current terminal at Kuala Lumpur Airport Terminal 2.

A previous lawsuit was filed by MAHB for unpaid airport fees by AirAsia and AirAsia X in 2018. The AirAsia Group would file a counter-suit in January of 2019 over losses the airline incurred while operating at the airport.

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