AirAsia Sdn Bhd's plans to start flights to Johor will not be derailed over the change in ownership of the Sultan Ismail International Airport from Senai Airport Terminal Services Sdn Bhd to Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd, its chief executive officer Tony Fernandes said.
I don't think it is unsolved (referring to the change of ownership). It is more or less solved now...no, it is not slowing or speeding us up, he said.
One of the main issues in flying to Senai would be the ease of transport between Malaysia and Singapore, he added.
But, you've got to remember that there are two million people living around Senai. We are not starting (flights to) Senai just for Singapore. We have people living in Johor, Pahang and Malacca who can be our potential customers. That's the advantage of having Senai.
There are a lot of domestic and regional places we can fly to and from Senai. For example, Johor Baru to Sandakan and Johor Baru to Tawau, he said.
Fernandes told reporters this in Singapore yesterday at the sidelines of The International Herald Tribune Visionaries and Leaders 2003 Awards where he was awarded for his achievements in turning AirAsia - a no-frills airline business - into a success.
He said Singapore offered AirAsia a different market. It is not necessarily routes from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore or Penang to Singapore. We can look into say, Miri to Singapore. There are lots of fluid ideas at the moment.
He was unable to confirm if AirAsia would fly to Senai before the end of this year.
Earlier, Fernandes met with Singapore's Transport Minister Yeo Cheow Tong and officials from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore to discuss the possibility of AirAsia flying to Singapore.
It is a learning process for both of us. I don't know what he hoped AirAsia could bring to Singapore but I am sure he sees we can bring a different market to Singapore, he added.
On AirAsia flying to Senai or Singapore, he said: It's all about cost at the end of the day. Right now, Senai gives us a much better alternative than Changi Airport. Changi is an expensive airport.
He added that it cost 50% more to operate in Changi than in Senai.
Fernandes said his priority at the moment was to strengthen the airline's foothold in the domestic market.
There is no rush to go regional. Like I said before, there are potential pitfalls when going regional. We can do a lot in the domestic market.
Even for the Singapore market, I would say Johor Baru-Tawau and Johor Baru-Kuching could be good routes. Alternatively, Johor Baru-Alor Star is a good way to go to Haadyai, he said.
AirAsia now has 13 domestic destinations. Fernandes expects to add two domestic routes before the end of this year.
AirAsia has also secured landing rights in Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia.
However, Fernandes said he was not looking at Bangkok. That I can say - it will not be Bangkok. We could be flying to Koh Samui, Phuket or Krabi, he said.