AirAsia Defends Advertisements Of Super-Low Promotional Fares

Five cents to Bangkok? The airfare certainly seemed incredible. But budget airline AirAsia’s highly visible placements and advertisement around Phnom Penh, of­fered the pennies-only fare for tra­vel to the Thai capital between Jan 4 and June 30, 2007.

But on Oct 5, attempts to book a Jan 5 one-way flight via AirAsia’s Web site returned a fare of $56, a mark­up of 1,120 times the promotional price.

Since October 2005, AirAsia has advertised fares from Phnom Penh to Bangkok and other re­gional cities, often for as little as $5 or $10 each way, and often far be­low the actual cost to travelers when, as the airline’s small print states, “airport taxes, surcharges and fees” are calculated.

“At AirAsia, we implement a var­iable fare structure which en­courages guests to book early to en­joy the lowest fare possible and when these seats are taken up, guests will take advantage of our next lowest fare,” wrote Janet Leow, an AirAsia spokeswoman in Kuala Lumpur, in an e-mail.

“This explains why when you try to book the ticket, you may not get the $0.05 fare but the next available seat,” she wrote.

Cambodian Tourism Minister Lay Prohas said he had not seen the ads and had not received any com­plaints about them.

“We know that generally speak­ing AirAsia is cheaper,” he said, before declining to comment further.

Bretton Sciaroni, chair of the In­ternational Business Club in Cam­bodia, said that, while often high­er than advertised, AirAsia’s prices were still lower than their com­petitors.

One-way airfares for Jan 5 flights to Bangkok on Thai Air­ways and Vietnam Airlines ranged from $242 to $320.

“A lot of these ads are either as­ter­isks or…they don’t include taxes or there’s other charges they pass on,” Sciaroni said.

Though the fares turn out pricier than expected, Sciaroni noted: “For airline tickets, I don’t think that anybody would consider that there’s a real victim here.”

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