The Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) to probe allegations by AirAsia Group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes that he was asked to cancel cheap extra flights during the elections.
In a statement, Mavcom said the claims were considered to be “serious allegations”.
“We have immediately commenced an investigation into these claims.
“We will keep members of the public informed,” it said.
In a video dated May 13 posted on his Facebook page, Fernandes had claimed that Mavcom had “summoned” him to cancel 120 extra discounted flights which would have carried 26,000 people during the elections.
He also claimed that he “came under intense pressure” to support Barisan Nasional (BN) to protect the future of AirAsia, as aviation is a “very regulated industry where almost everything requires the approval of the Government.”
“It’s never easy running an airline and one must always support the government of the day.
“Foolishly, I thought by doing the video which I felt was fairly neutral and factual and the plane from Kota Kinabalu would appease the government.
“I also thought it will protect the jobs of all staff, more importantly, the very essence of allowing 18mil to fly every year at low fares,” he said.
He added that he will regret forever his spur-of-the-moment decision.
Fernandes came under fire from PH supporters, who had called for a boycott of AirAsia after he uploaded a video attributing the low-cost carrier’s success to Najib’s administration.
The attacks also followed AirAsia’s decision to paint one of its aircraft with BN’s #HebatNegaraKu theme.
He alleged that he was also asked to remove Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz as chairman of AirAsia X for her outspoken comments against the ruling government but he refused to do so.
“It was getting harder and harder to resist the pressure from the Prime Minister’s Office.”
Fernandes said he had been under pressure many times before, having fought the authorities and regulators to ensure that more people can fly.
He acknowledged that he “buckled” at a crucial time in the country’s history.
“I apologise once again for the pain and the hurt I caused.”
Fernandes said he shared the views of many Malaysians and that he looked forward to a new Malaysia that gives everyone a chance.
He also pledged to do his level best and put in 150% to make up for this error in judgement.
On Friday, PH lawmaker Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman had come to Fernandes’ defence, calling him an unsung hero who had backed the newly formed government.
In an Instagram post, the Muar MP said Fernandes was being wrongfully attacked by netizens as he had been pushed into a corner.
Meanwhile, Rafidah thanked Fernandez for standing by her when he was under pressure to sack her.
“His only mistake, or ‘stupidity’ as I told him, was trying to please and placate the then prime minister’s operatives,” she said.
She added that with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad at the helm of the new government, the operating environment can be expected to be more business-friendly, and constraints faced by the aviation industry can be eased and removed.