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Saturday February 3, 2007

MAHB recommends new LCC hub

PETALING JAYA: A new low-cost carrier (LCC) hub will take shape next to the present satellite and main terminal buildings (legacy hub) at the KL International Airport (KLIA), if the Government accepts the recommendations of airport operator Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB). 

The legacy hub now caters to full-service travellers and the LCC hub, budget travellers, and they could be linked by a sky train. For the ease of travellers, MAHB has also recommended that the Express Rail Link, which connects KL Sentral with KLIA, be extended to the LCC hub. 

“We have identified the site and made our recommendations. The design for the new satellite and terminal buildings (LCC hub) will be different as it would take into account the operational requirements of the LCCs, just as we did for the present LCCT (low-cost carrier terminal),'' MAHB managing director Datuk Seri Bashir Ahmad said when contacted by StarBiz

“We would be getting AirAsia Bhd involved in designing the terminal,” he said. 

Bashir said MAHB was “fully supportive of the Government’s efforts to promote low-fare travel and the company would continue to provide and develop infrastructure to accommodate low-cost travel.” 

The search for a new site began because the LCCT is only a temporary site. The capacity of the present terminal can be expanded to handle 15 million passengers a year from 10 million now, but it certainly cannot cater to the growing demand for low-cost air travel. The land around the LCCT is inadequate for future expansion. 

Currently, the LCCT handles six million passengers but, by the turn of the decade, the number could well exceed 12 million. 

Under the original master plan for KLIA, there is ample land to house four satellite buildings, two terminal structures and five runaways. If all the buildings are constructed, KLIA should be able to handle 100 million passengers a year. 

For now, only one satellite and terminal building is available to handle 25 million passengers a year. There is no denying that a new satellite building needs to be constructed next to the legacy hub to meet future growth in full-service passengers, but before 2015. 

What is more urgent now is a permanent structure for low-cost air travel since growth in this sector is robust. Therefore, MAHB's proposal makes a lot of sense. It would not just allow both the legacy and LCC hubs to be housed next to each other but, in terms of logistics, it will provide connectivity for passengers who need to change from low-cost to full-service carriers. 

On a broader perspective, such as move can potentially attract more airlines to KLIA, given the combined number of passengers at both hubs would be higher that it is today. 

This would help Malaysia realise its dream of becoming a transport hub since the combined passenger capacity (of both legacy and LCC hubs) at KLIA in the future could well exceed 60 million. 

Bashir said the LCC hub would only be ready in 2015. In the meantime, upgrading work at the LCCT would continue to cater to AirAsia X’s long-haul flights, he said. The expansion involves the extension of the apron for wide-body aircraft, expansion of the terminal building, review of the baggage-handling operations, cark-park extension and a food court. 

Currently, AirAsia, its Thai and Indonesian subsidiaries, as well as Cebu Pacific Airways operate from the LCCT. In July, AirAsia X will begin flights to Britain. 

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