KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia is adamant about staying put at Terminal 2 of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, saying that tourism will be affected if it moves to Terminal 1.
AirAsia group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said Sabah’s tourism industry was “fragile” and the move would increase cost to passengers.
“There is tremendous competition in the region for tourism. If you move us to Terminal 1 and you increase airport tax by RM35, you will kill tourism,” he said after announcing David Foster as AirAsia’s first global brand ambassador.
He pointed out that even Malaysia Airlines, which had many turboprop aircraft, had agreed that relocation would cause congestion at Terminal 1.
Fernandes did not foresee being forced to relocate despite a Bernama report quoting Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Aziz Kaprawi as saying there was a government directive for AirAsia and other airlines to move to Terminal 1.
He said Abdul Aziz had not spoken to AirAsia, but Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had told the airline it could stay.
Fernandes said as industry regulators, the Transport Ministry should not have its secretary-general and deputy secretary-general on the Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd (MAHB) board.
Besides being against the code of conduct of major shareholder Khazanah Nasional Bhd, Fernandes said they were only getting one side of the story.
“They should be independent and hear both sides and then decide what is best for the country.”
Fernandes added it was time “for crazy decisions in Malaysia to stop”.
He pointed out that AirAsia was previously forced to move to KLIA2, which was a mistake because the airport was not ready.
“We have an airport that we did not want. KLIA2 is not a low-cost airport but we are still making the best of it,” he said.
Fernandes said that if he were the airport authority (MAHB), he would listen to his biggest customer.
He said every country in Asean was working and engaging with AirAsia on how to bring in more visitors and how to create more jobs.
“It’s kind of frustrating for AirAsia and we are not into confrontation. We want to win, we want the country to win and we want to create jobs,” he said.