AirAsia Accuses Philippine Airport Authorities of Unfair Treatment

AirAsia Group's Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes has taken a direct hit at Philippine airport authorities as he expressed his sentiments over the unfair treatment of AirAsia's local affiliates and their passengers. Many industry observers believe that the unfair treatment is seen as a way to curb the growth of AirAsia in the Philippines, which is viewed as a major competitor for Cebu Pacific.

Copyright Photo: travelling_bk/PFN
An AirAsia aircraft landing at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
According to Fernandes, Philippine airport authorities are constantly under the pressure and influence of the major Philippine carriers -- Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines -- leading to inconsistent treatment being given to AirAsia. Fernandes cited one observation where all AirAsia flights are serviced through Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 4 except for flights bound for Incheon and Jingjiang, which operate from NAIA Terminal 3. Though the airline is forced to use the cramped conditions of the old Manila Domestic Terminal, they are expected to pay the same fees that are being paid by carriers that enjoy the privilege of using the much more modern Terminal 3.

"It is just not right. AirAsia and my Filipino partners have invested a fortune, and we are creating lots of jobs. Really, we are being treated third class," said Fernandes. "I feel very bad for my staff. I don't mind operating in Terminal 4, but then charge us appropriately." To further illustrate his point, Fernandes then compared his budget hotel chain, Tune Hotels, with the luxurious Shangri-La chain, “If I'm in a Shangri-La Hotel, I pay Shangri-La Hotel rates," said Fernandes. "If I'm in Tune Hotel, I pay Tune Hotel rates. Terminal 4 is a Tune Hotel.”


Fernandes also took aim at a decision made last year by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to ground the operations of  Zest Air, now operating as AirAsia Zest. In August of 2013, the carrier was grounded for several days after the Civil Aviation Authority accused the carrier of various violations of aviation safety. The grounding was seen by Fernandes as a way for competing airlines to control the industry, which is ‘terrified’ by the competition that new entrants can create.

“Competition is fine, but competition must be fair. And airports must be fair,” said Fernandes. He added that he intends to meet with several Philippine government officials including President Benigno Aquino III, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, and Jun Abaya of the Department of Transportation and Communications. Recalling his statement made at the Skytrax World Airline Awards, where AirAsia was voted the World's Best Low-Cost carrier for the sixth consecutive year, Fernandes reaffirmed that he always believed the success of AirAsia was in part due to the support of local airport authorities. However, the Philippines leaves much to be desired.


Meanwhile, the General Manager of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), Jose Angel Hondrado, released a statement addressing the ‘unfair’ treatment of AirAsia, as pointed out by Fernandes.

"I am disappointed that he chose to air his grievances in the media rather than sit down with airport authorities to discuss the issues. For somebody of his stature, we expect more," said Honrado. He continued, "Maybe he should know that it was the former Zest Air who asked MIAA to allow them to operate at Terminal 4 because we could not accommodate at Terminal 3. I suggest that he focus his attention in ensuring safe flight operations and sound financial management."


However, passengers and travellers are quick to hit back at Honrado indicating that the travelling public expects more of airport management given its dismal performance resulting in NAIA being consistently rated as one of the world's worst airports and a national embarrassment. The weak and reactive management style of Honrado has led passengers to question the fairness of paying the same terminal fee regardless of which terminal one uses in spite of the major discrepancy between the comfort, conditions, and amenities of the various terminals.

In addition, AirAsia has made the request to transfer more of its international flights to NAIA Terminal 3 in an effort to expand and provide greater comfort to passengers. However, airport authorities are apparently unwilling to accommodate AirAsia citing a lack of space, which forces AirAsia to continue using the cramped conditions of the older Terminal 4. Regardless of whether Zest Air previously asked the Manila International Airport Authority to use Terminal 4, passengers are demanding equal treatment for equal fees.

In the past few years, passengers and lawmakers have consistently made repeated calls for Honrado's resignation. Many believe that Honrado ought to focus his attention more on raising the standards of his terminals and improving the passenger experience, rather than engaging in squabbles with airline executives. Past reports have indicated that the Manila International Airport Authority delivers significantly less to airlines and passengers in terms of services and amenities compared to other airports in the region charging comparable fees.



  1. Management change is well overdue. It's amazing Mr Honrado has survived so long after so many problems under his watch.

  2. That NAIA 4 is a TOTAL DISASTER. PHP550.- fee for THIS?!

  3. Tama naman ang Air Asia eh..... pati ibang foreign alirlines gaya ng Oman Air at JeT Airways ng India eh di nakapasok keso congestion problems....... I hope Mr. Honrado will open everything and all authorities can give fair treatment to all airlines...

  4. All airlines should be given equal and fair treatment coz after all the directly impact are the passengers or the common tao. How could Honrado say that airlines are treated faily when they are paying same fees of NAIA 3 and 4 (which is the oldest structure,almost to collapse when another storm hit it). These airlines and its passengers should be paying appropriately rated airline/terminal fees .NAIA 4 should pay only half of the NAIA3 rate. Davao,Cebu and CdO international airports pay only P200.

    We should treat investors fairly coz they create jobs and tourism, equilibrium in the low-cost budget fares and without them fares could go up like no other airline exists in this country. If u treat them fairly in their fees in NAIA4 then their fares may even get lower to the benefit of passengers/common tao. Listen to our investors and business partners instead of focusing where they r barking at. Give a solution and ask not another question!!!

  5. Mr Honrado is already turning Terminal 3 into another joke. There aren't enough seats for families and friends to sit in at the arrival hall. People risk injury having to run across moving traffic to catch a jeep because there is no designated pickup area. Without proper management this terminal will just be another pathetic excuse for the airport. All they worry about is how to collect the terminal fee.


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