When Air Asia and Malaysia Airlines collaborated in sharing air routes in 2011, many of us frequent travellers, felt cheated. The absence of competition left a bitter taste and the thought of our national airlines being controlled by the likes of Tony Fernandes whose way of doing business is rather shady also disturbed the lot of us. We took to blogging to express our frustration, virtually begging the Prime Minister Datuk Najib to step in to unbundle the share-swap deal which he eventually did due to mainly the strong opposition by MAS Employees Union (MASEU).
Malaysian Consumers’ Association (FOMCA) did voice that the collaboration was against the Anti-Competition Act 2010 which came into force in January 2012 and somehow the talks died down and I for one was rather disappointed with the lack of further development. Apparently without much fanfare, the Association had lodged the complaint on the anti-competitive conduct with MyCC the following February.
And so, last Friday 7 September 2013, news streamed in that both the airlines have been found culpable and fined RM10 million each for infringing the Anti-Competition Act (read here). Kudos to MyCC (Malaysian Competition Commission) because quietly it has brought back a sense of hope and fair play to the consumers and that we may never be treated shabbily and taken for granted ever again.
The response from MAS is rather muted, I supposed they are not really the people who had wanted the collaboration in the first place. But look at the response from Air Asia’s owner Tony Fernandes, as befitting his irascible personality, he chooses to take a fighting stance against the decision.
This man has been getting his way all this while with Malaysia Airport Berhad, intimidating the government-linked company and shouting them down into more or less, submission. His arrogant attitude is well-known and many thought that he is behaving so because he has some powerful politicians as his supporters.
I can imagine Tony Fernandes making his lawyers work overtime to demolish MyCC’s ruling. He is already making comparison with Malaysia Airport Berhad which he says has no competition. May he be reminded that in areas of air travellers’ and airport security, it is unwise to have competition!
Fernandes was also talking about the then newly introduced MAS’s low cost full service Firefly (competing with AirAsia) not making money and that AirAsia was trying to help MAS. That comment was blatantly inaccurate as the service was starting to do well when it was unceremoniously stopped following the share swap deal. Come on Fernandes, didn’t you say the deal would make a lot of money? A lot of money,yes, but it was for Air Asia and not for us, the Malaysian tax-payers, the owner of Malaysia Airlines.
I am also uncomfortable with his association with the STAR newspaper as one would expect the paper to be bias in its reporting on Air Asia and Tony Fernandes in particular. We saw that during the Bursa Malaysia’s pre-listing of AirAsia X how the STAR journalist had misled potential investors in her write-up of the company’s IPO. Just compare the STAR reporting of the fine by MyCC to the report by Malaysian Insider here. The latter is fairer and in greater depth and appeared independent.
Let us see whether he can fight the decision of the Competition Commission which is very clear in its analysis of the infringement.
Tony Fernandes was deafeningly silent when Air Asia was fined AUD200,000 by the Australian Federal Court (here) for misrepresenting the cost of its airlines tickets by not including the cost of tax and other charges in its web advertisement. The practice was a violation against the Australian Consumer Law.
We admire and respect honest entrepreneurs but we dislike opportunistic, unreasonable and bullying practices and Tony Fernandes, please do not tell us what you have done for this country, this country has, in fact, bent over backwards to help you get rich and also enable you to receive all those accolades. Do reflect and be a little humble.
We also dare you to return the lucrative route between Kota Kinabalu and Johor Bahru given to you following the infamous share-swap deal, to Malaysia Airlines and see whether it won’t dent Air Asia’s quarterly revenues.