Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Stopping Touts at KLIA

FOR many travel agents operating at the arrival hall of Kuala Lumpur International Airport, it would be no surprise to them if tourists arriving during the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 are welcomed by touts.They feel that the number of touts operating there has increased and now outnumber the legitimate travel operators.

Annuar and Mohd Zaid going through a police report on the touts at KLIAFleet Holidays Sdn Bhd operations manager Mohd Zaid Yahya said on Nov 8, his guests, a group of six from New Zealand, arrived on a transit flight about 9pm.

“Before they could reach the paging counter at the arrival hall, they were intercepted by a tout,” he said.Mohd Zaid said the guests had valid vouchers for transport from the airport to the hotel and back, as well as hotel vouchers issued by the bona-fide travel agency.

“The tout had escorted them downstairs where two men were waiting for them. The touts told the guests that their bus had broken down and pretended to call the hotel.

“They (the touts) then informed the guests that they would send them to the hotel for US$250 (RM909).

They even issued a receipt and told the guests to claim the money from the
hotel.“However, when the guests tried to do so at the hotel, they were informed
that they had been cheated and despite their protests, no refund was given.

“They then lodged a report at the KLIA police station the next day before their departure,” said Mohd Zaid, adding that the guests had given the van’s registration number to the police.“We are waiting for the guests’ agent to write to us before proceeding.

We had also received complaints from travel agents abroad on the issue of touts at our airport,” he said.Just a day earlier, one of the company’s employees was arrested by four auxiliary policemen for waiting for their guests at the paging board about 2pm.

“My staff, C. Pathmanathan, 26, was in uniform and it is normal for travel agents to wait for their customers there,” said Mohd Zaid.He claimed the auxiliary police told Pathmanathan that he had to page at their counter which is further away.

“There were many touts waiting for their victims at the spot but the police did not take any action against them. My staff, who was just doing his job, was rudely interrupted.

“When Pathmanathan tried to explain that it was impossible to page from the counter, the policemen said he would be handcuffed if he continues.”

When they saw Pathmanathan still waiting at the paging board, the police arrested him and took him to the KLIA police station.He was later taken to Sepang police headquarters.

“At the station, we had to wait almost an hour before seeing the investigating
officer, only to be told that they had no grounds to charge our staff.”“Apart
from wasting our time, it also disrupted business. Guests who arrived that day
had to take taxis to the hotels,” said the company’s managing director, Annuar
Yusop.Annuar said the staff who had replaced Pathmanathan at the arrival hall
was also harassed by policemen.

“This is not the only time we’ve experienced this sort of trouble. Despite being in uniform, they prevent us from doing our job. However, the touts are not bothered at all,” claimed Annuar.He said that there had also been instances when the touts stole their customers.

“We have had meetings with the relevant agencies, including Malaysia Airports
Bhd, but nothing has changed. “Everyone is getting tired of it. Although the law
is there, we are wondering what is happening,” said Annuar, adding that the
touts operate with impunity.

On March 6, the amended Road Transport Act 1987 was enforced, whereby under Section 110A of the Act, those convicted face fines up to RM50,000, or jail up to five years, or both. Previously, those caught were released with a slap on the wrist. The Act also empowers the Road Transport Department, police and airport security to detain people for touting. Officials from Malaysia Airports Bhd could not be reached for comments.

News Source : MalayMail

(Response to the above allegation)

THE paging system for travel agents, hotel employees and other representatives at airports will be reorganised. Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) security and safety senior general manager Datuk Kamaruddin Mohd Ismail said at present the situation at the KLIA arrival hall is like a pasar malam, with agents shouting and yelling for attention.

“They are not supposed to be like that.They are only allowed to wait there quietly while holding placards,” he said.

“But first, we are trying to get all travel agents to register with us for easy monitoring.”

He said MAHB will also be looking into streamlining the limousine services to provide suffi cient taxis at all times as presently, passengers are made to wait a long time for taxis.

Kamaruddin was asked to comment on an issue raised by the operations manager of Fleet Holidays Sdn Bhd, a travel agency, who claimed his staff was arrested by auxiliary police for waiting for their guests at the paging board.Mohd Zaid Yahya had told The Malay Mail on Nov 7 that one of his staff was arrested by the auxiliary police.The policeman had insisted the travel agent wait for his guests at his counter. The 26-year-old travel agent had explained that it was difficult to do so, but was arrested by the policeman but later released.

He also complained how the touts had cheated their guests from New Zealand and charged them US$250 (RM909) for a ride to their hotel.Mohd Zaid had claimed the touts had lied to the guests that their bus had broken down.Since the guests had vouchers for transport and hotel stay, the touts told them to claim the money from the hotel.Kamaruddin promised to investigate the incident.But he said there had been cases where employees of the travel agency had acted as toutst.“One of them was arrested during a recent police raid, charged and sentenced to two months’ jail and fined RM6,000.” For that the company’s contract is being reviewed.

“Operations are conducted regularly by MAHB and the police to curb the presence of touts. The latest operations by the police was on Nov 15 where another tout was arrested,” he said.“At times, the victims refused to come forward and this made it difficult for us.”

News Source : MalayMail

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