AirAsia not moving out

KUALA LUMPUR: In a test of wills with the authorities, Air-Asia Bhd and its long-haul affiliate AirAsia X Bhd said they are keeping their airline operations at the current low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) in Sepang come May 9, even though the Transport Ministry announced that the terminal will be shut down on that day to make way for klia2, which will open on May 2.

When contacted yesterday, AirAsia group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes told The Edge Financial Daily in a text message that “we are not moving” (out of LCCT on May 9), adding that Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) and the Transport Ministry have to explain to the passengers for not allowing
AirAsia to operate from the present LCCT until it is ready to move.

“AirAsia and AirAsia X operations will still be based at the current LCCT even after May 9 due to a number of unresolved pressing issues that still need to be addressed,” AirAsia said in a statement yesterday.

The carrier pointed to the recent Ikram Premier Consultings’ findings on the readiness of klia2, which it said revealed that there were depressions on the taxiway/apron and runway and this would necessitate periodic remedial measures to be undertaken in relevant areas.

“This will prove to be operationally disruptive to a hub airline such as AirAsia group which has about 400 aircraft movements in a day and at least 70 aircraft in its fleet in LCCT. Last year, the group carried 22 million passengers via LCCT,” it said.

AirAsia reckoned that the Operational Readiness and Airport Transfer (ORAT) period to support the size of AirAsia’s operations would substantially be more than the two months prescribed by MAHB, deeming it “unrealistic” and “overly-optimistic”.

“Even the ORAT for the transfer from the KL International Airport to [the current] LCCT back in 2006 took longer than two months when AirAsia’s operations were significantly smaller,” it said.

AirAsia said there are “other key commercial, operational and contractual open items” that are still under discussions between the carrier and MAHB, which need to be resolved prior to its transfer to klia2.

While AirAsia did not state what the open items were, it had in the past wanted a written assurance from the airport operator that the airport and aeronautical charges such as office rentals, landing and parking fees remain at current levels. There should be an agreement on the level of service put in place before the carrier moves to the new terminal.

AirAsia chief executive officer Aireen Omar said in the statement while the carrier’s move to klia2 is imminent, it will only be carried out after all issues are addressed.

“We appeal to the prime minister for the benefit of the 12,000 AirAsia Allstars [staff] for a fully functional terminal where we can continue to work hard to make flying affordable for over 20 million Malaysians who have benefited from the low-cost carrier business model,” she said.

Aireen said the carrier had already addressed the issues to MAHB and the relevant authorities.

“AirAsia will be making an official announcement and will inform all its guests once we are ready to proceed with the move to klia2,” she said.

AirAsia’s response follows yesterday’s announcement by Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi that the current LCCT will be shut down a week after klia2 opens for operation on May 2.

The announcement is seen by some quarters as a means to pressure the AirAsia group, which will be the single largest tenant at the new terminal, to move out of the current LCCT into klia2 in order to meet the May 2 opening deadline.

After opening the 13th Airport Cities Conference and Exhibition yesterday, Abdul Aziz, who heads the klia2 task force, said the government will move all the relevant agencies including customs and immigration to klia2 on May 9.

“We hope that AirAsia will move to klia2 within that week because we are going to close [down the current] LCCT, a week after klia2’s opening,” he told reporters.

Abdul Aziz admitted that the decision by the government to shut down the LCCT would force AirAsia out from its present location.

“We want all the passengers to enjoy the latest infrastructure [offered by klia2]”, he said, adding that AirAsia will be notified on the matter.

According to Abdul Aziz, there will be four airlines operating from the new terminal on May 2. They are Malindo Airways Sdn Bhd, Cebu Pacific Air, Tigerair Mandala and Tiger Air but excluding AirAsia.

“We will have an official [commercial] flight [by Cebu Pacific out of klia2] on May 2. All is in place,” he said.

The deputy minister said there will be an open day on April 27, when klia2 opens its doors to the public, prior to its opening on May 2. He said there will be buses to pick up passengers who will be taken on a drive to visit the terminal grounds, including the runway.

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on April 2, 2014.


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