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Budget airline AirAsia to start charging customers for checking in at airport counters

* Measure will help minimise physical contact with airline staff

* Carrier will charge $4.83 for domestic flights

* Ryanair, Spirit Airlines also have airport check-in charges

SYDNEY, Sept 1 (Reuters) - Cash-strapped budget airline AirAsia Group Bhd said on Tuesday it would begin charging customers a fee to check in at airport counters, in part to encourage them to minimise physical contact with staff during the coronavirus pandemic.

Travellers who do not check in via the airline’s website, mobile app or airport kiosk will be charged 20 Malaysian ringgit ($4.83) for domestic flights and 30 Malaysian ringgit for international flights, though some exceptions will apply.

AirAsia Group Chief Operations Officer Javed Malik said the fees would help motivate travellers to make use of the airline’s investment in digital technology.

“In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, these self-check-in facilities have become very crucial in minimising physical contact between our guests and staff,” he said in a statement.

AirAsia last month reported the biggest quarterly loss in its history due to the devastating impact the pandemic has had on travel demand, with revenue down 96%.

The airline said it had applied for bank loans in its operating markets and had been presented with proposals from investment bankers, lenders and potential investors to raise capital.

The new AirAsia check-in fees are well below European budget carrier Ryanair Holdings’s PLC 55 euro ($65.95) charge for airport check-in, which was put in place before the pandemic.

U.S. low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines charges $10 for boarding passes to be printed at the airport, according to its website.

$1 = 4.1450 ringgit $1 = 0.8340 euros Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Stephen Coates

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