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Consumers didn't buy air tickets to kiss their money good-bye

Mavcom fails to understand that the refund policy is not merely a commercial decision by the airline but rather about protecting the consumers' rights.

Lee Tick Seng
3 minute read

I refer to the article dated July 13, 2022 titled "Hope fades for AirAsia X passengers waiting ticket refunds".

How disgraceful the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) is by deceptively continuing to urge all parties to respect and abide by the decision of the courts, in a statement which may dash the hopes of AirAsia X (AAX) passengers who have been waiting to be refunded for flights cancelled as far back as 2020.

Many local and international passengers whose requests for a refund were rejected by AAX and Mavcom are still waiting to receive their money back, and this was the case even before the company underwent its debt restructuring process.

In truth, it is Mavcom's stance and the Malaysian Aviation Consumer Protection Code (MACPC) 2016, particularly Paragraphs 7A (1) and 12(5), that fail to protect consumers' rights and instead protect the airlines even after the amendment in 2019.

In fact, it is the root cause of the public outcry over the apparent discrepancies in AAX's refund policy under unprecedented circumstances.

That’s why Mavcom is often described as “toothless” for failing to act against AAX and instead allowing the company to ignore the rights of consumers. This is wrong – AAX should return its passengers’ money.

Based on its website, Mavcom's stance on refund request is:

(1) For any voluntary flight cancellation by consumers who buy a non-refundable ticket, the consumers are entitled to a refund only on the airport tax or government-imposed taxes minus 5% processing fee within 30 days.

(2) For any flight cancellation by the airlines under all circumstances, the consumers are subjected to the respective airline's refund policy. The request for a refund in the original mode of payment will be reviewed on a case-to-case basis. This is a commercial decision by the airline, taking into consideration that the cancellation of the flight was beyond the airlines’ control.

On the other hand, how come the airlines are not obliged to refund if the voluntary cancellation of the flight was beyond the consumers' control due to personal reasons such as being sick?

Mavcom fails to understand that the refund policy is not merely a commercial decision by the airline but rather about protecting the consumers' rights.

There is no cost to the airlines since the journeys have not been performed. So why refuse a refund?

Instead, the airlines should be ethical enough to allow consumers a refund with an option for credits or vouchers.

Accordingly, Mavcom's stance to allow airlines to decide on their own refund policy is unacceptable.

Obviously, it is unfair and deceptive that an operating airline should not be obliged to refund under all circumstances but the consumers are not entitled to a refund even under extraordinary circumstances.

Considering the public outcry and in the interest of doing the right thing, it is critical for Mavcom to reject the assertions that airlines are not required to refund a passenger’s fare when a flight is cancelled under unprecedented circumstances due to the following reasons:

(1) It is manifestly unfair and deceptive for an airline to fail to provide the flight service contracted for and then refuse to provide a refund if the passenger finds the offered rerouting unacceptable and he or she no longer wishes to travel;

(2) The focus is not on whether the flight disruptions are within or outside the airline’s control or whether the ticket is a refundable ticket or a non-refundable ticket, but rather on the fact that the cancellation is through no fault of the passenger;

(3) The term "non-refundable ticket" is not even defined under the MACPC and purely a commercial strategy and thus should not be used as a basis to refuse a refund; and

(4) In the event that an airline prefers to issue credit or vouchers for future travel in lieu of cash refunds, it is only fair for the airline to notify passengers that they have the option of a refund.

If Mavcom's stance remains the same, it can rest assured that the MACPC will continue to fail to protect the consumers' right to a refund when airlines cancel flights.

Based on the feedback from many affected international passengers, AAX’s refund policy has brought a bad reputation to Malaysia.

Mavcom urgently needs to revamp its flawed consumer protection code, not make announcements, stances and statements that are full of hot air.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.

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