17 February 2019
AirAsia is one of the budget airlines that charges customers a fee to process a departure tax refund. Photo: HKEJ
AirAsia is one of the budget airlines that charges customers a fee to process a departure tax refund. Photo: HKEJ

3 budget airlines violate rules on departure tax refund

Three budget airlines have been charging passengers processing fees when refunding their departure tax, Apple Daily reported Friday.

That is against the rules set by the Civil Aviation Department (CAD).

The three low-cost carriers are AirAsia, Scoot and Thai AirAsia, a survey by Hong Kong’s Consumer Council found.

A departure tax of HK$120 (US$15.48) is normally levied on each passenger aged 12 years or above who departs from Hong Kong by air.

But under the Air Passenger Departure Tax Ordinance, airlines are required to refund the tax without charge to a passenger who ends up not departing.

Among the 24 airlines surveyed, 14 said they do not charge processing fees but said they will not voluntarily refund the tax unless the customer applies for the refund, Michael Hui King-man, chairman of the council’s publicity & community relations committee.

He criticized them for asking customers who qualify to apply for the tax refund online or by mail or fax within 10 days.

Hui urged the airlines to take the initiative to refund the amount.

Cathay Pacific Airways (00293.HK), its subsidiary Dragon Airlines and Taiwan’s China Airlines all claim they do not charge processing fees, yet their webpages contain vague wording that implies they do so.

The council said the lack of consistency regarding refunds of the departure tax results from the lack of monitoring by the CAD.

The group said it is not reasonable for airline companies to charge processing fees, since they have been given HK$60 million a year by the government to cover their administrative costs.

The council did not suggest the airlines have been pocketing the fees they charge, but it said such fees should be returned to the CAD.

Without specifying what punishment airline companies might receive for violating rules, the CAD said it will study the results of the survey and consider the council’s suggestions

It said it has reminded airlines in writing to follow the rules.

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