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June 18, 2008

MAS withdraws perks for AirAsia chief
Malaysia Airlines has withdrawn discount privileges it had given to the boss of rival carrier AirAsia, as a war of words between the two companies escalated, AFP quoted local reports as saying Tuesday.

Malaysia Airlines managing director Idris Jala said in a letter to AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes that his staff had protested over the perks following "negative statements" he had made about the national carrier.

"Many of them feel hurt and frustrated with what they read in the news," Jala said in the letter dated May 28, according to the Star daily.

Fernandes has been enjoying discounts of 50 percent for first or business class travel and 75 percent for economy class, the newspaper reported.

The AirAsia boss said he was "a little disappointed" when he received the letter three weeks ago, as discounted or free seats were a courtesy offered between airline chiefs even if they were the "bitterest of enemies".

"I'd like to say that MAS has the best crew and I've always been treated warmly by MAS staff," Fernandes told the daily.

"I've always preferred to fly with MAS but I guess all good things must come to an end."

Fernandes said AirAsia, Southeast Asia's largest budget airline, had also offered free seats to Jala, but that he had never taken up the offer.

The two airlines clashed last month amid an intense price war, with Fernandes accusing Malaysia Airlines of copying his budget carrier's low-fare model.

Malaysia Airlines launched a zero-fare campaign to all domestic routes, publicising it with advertisements similar to AirAsia's distinctive publicity material.

Fernandes also called on the government to stop giving subsidies to Malaysia Airlines and urged them to level the playing field for fair competition between the carriers.

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