KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) on Tuesday (May 15) refuted claims made by AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes, who had said that the aviation regulator had told him to cancel all 120 additional flights to help voters return home for Malaysia's recent election.
Mavcom said it has lodged a police report against Fernandes and branded his claims as "serious accusations". AirAsia has refuted this and said that it has proof to support Fernandes' claims.
"The Commission categorically refutes the accusation that it told AirAsia to cancel all 120 additional flights applied for by AirAsia during the 14th Malaysian General Election period," Mavcom said.
"The Commission has never issued any directive to AirAsia or any other airline to reduce or cancel any flights where regulatory requirements are met," Mavcom said.
Hours later, AirAsia said in a statement that Fernandes' claims were "fully supported" by evidence and facts, including direct communication with AirAsia's Indonesia CEO Riad Asmat and Mavcom's executive chairman.
"We divulge the evidence and facts to the appropriate authorities at the right time," AirAsia said, adding that it will fully cooperate with the police on the investigation.
Fernandez apologised on Sunday for appearing to endorse former Malaysian leader Najib Razak, who was ousted by prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in last Wednesday's shock election.
He said he had come under "intense" pressure in the lead-up to the election for adding extra flights and refusing to fire the chairman of a subsidiary who had expressed support for Mahathir.
"Within 24 hours, we were summoned by the Malaysian Aviation Commission and told to cancel all those flights. That put us again under tremendous pressure," Fernandes said.
On Tuesday, the regulator said it had approved 66 extra flights AirAsia applied for on Apr 23, after the airline revised down its earlier applications for a total of 140 additional flights.
"The commission has never issued any directive to AirAsia or any other airline to reduce or cancel any flights where regulatory requirements are met," it added.
The regulator also denied summoning any AirAsia staff to appear before it between Apr 17 and May 13.
Shares in AirAsia edged down 0.9 per cent in Tuesday afternoon trading. They had closed Monday down more than 5 per cent, as investors fretted over the company's relationship with a new government in Malaysia, where it has the biggest domestic share.
Several airlines added flights after the election date was announced and Malaysians made plans to travel to their hometowns to vote.
"Only AirAsia proceeded to reduce its application for extra flights while Firefly, Malaysia Airlines and Malindo Air maintained their requests," the regulator said.
It added that it had approved 166 additional flights for various Malaysian-based airlines by Apr 24, including AirAsia.