Airports in race to cater to budget travellers


WITH LCCs mushrooming the world over, it is no surprise that airport authorities are rushing to improve airport services to cater to the ever-expanding population of budget travellers.  

Some have chosen to expand the existing terminals to accommodate these new numbers. Other authorities have opted to build separate facilities specifically just for the value-conscious flyer.  

 

Europe and USA set the tone 

With the proliferation of LCCs in the United States and Europe, it is no surprise that the race to accommodate these airlines has been under way for some time. 

LCCs tend to use smaller, cheaper and less congested airports, however, not many terminals are specifically built towards that purpose, until now. 

There are not many specific hubs for airlines , but several of the smaller airports in many countries prove to be the popular choice for LCCs. Although they are not classified specifically as LCC terminals, they are seen by many passengers as “unofficial” hubs for budget airlines. 

The two popular English LCCs, Ryanair and easyJet, for instance, have many flights out of the country’s Stansted and Luton airports, both 60 and 40 miles away from London respectively. 

In Spain, Barcelona’s smaller airports like Girona and Reus are becoming increasingly popular. Ryanair now offers flights to a minor Spanish airport called Reus, promoting it as the budget traveller’s gateway of choice to Barcelona and Costa Dorada. In Sweden, Stockholm’s smaller Skavsta airport has also Ryanair flights. 

In Germany, the Frankfurt-Hahn airport caters specifically to budget flights. Ryanair also flies frequently to Hamburg’s second airport, Hamburg-Lubeck, which times its airport bus trips to coincide with its flights. 

France is currently building a dedicated LCC terminal to the tune of 15.2mil euros in Provence. Called MP2, the terminal is being built on the site of an old cargo terminal and is expected to open in September. This has also been hailed by industry players as a bold move for the country, which has found it difficult to attract LCCs.  

In the United States where the LCC concept was first introduced, Southwest Airlines operates out of Dallas Lovefield. The most popular American LCC, in fact, started operations at its Dallas hub, and has turned it into a popular alternative to the larger Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.  

 

Asia: Aggressively following the trend 

In Asia, apart from Malaysia’s purpose built facility, other countries are fast catching on to capitalise on the LCC travellers' market. Malaysia led the way in kicking off the popularity of LCCs, followed by Singapore and Thailand to offer travellers low-cost connections. Singapore’s LCC terminal, which is targeted to open late March, has an initial handling capacity of 2.7 million passengers a year.  

According to reports, there is scope for further expansion, should more carriers utilise this terminal. The idea is to be free of frills. The single storey building, which is built in a modular fashion, contains no moving walkways or escalators or aerobridges.  

In Bali, its local airport authority made its stand by stating that no LCC terminal would be built to follow the examples of other international airports in the region.  

Last year, it was reported that all airlines, low-cost or otherwise, are required to follow international airline standards for operations at the Ngurah Rai Airport.  

Plans to upgrade the 5,000-sq metre Ngurah Rai terminal are under way to standards of an international terminal.  

In India, the Civil Aviation Ministry’s March reports said there were plans to set up a separate terminal for low-cost carriers at the Delhi airport.  

Meanwhile, at the Mumbai terminal, efforts are being made to create more space for these carriers by shifting operations of small aircraft to the Juhu airstrip.  

 

Value-added feature 

A feature that is picking up in popularity in LCCT terminals in Europe is the Common Use Self-Service (CUSS).  

It was reported in jetOne magazine recently that the CUSS is expected to cut check-in costs by 96% from US$3.70 or RM13.77, which is a high industry average to 16 cents or over 60 sen per passenger.  

The CUSS allows passengers to carry out self check-in at kiosks, similar to ATMs, available at the LCCTs. This gives airlines their savings, the airports can save space and passengers will have more time. CUSS is used at Berlin Schonefeld Airport, as well as at Geneva and Nottingham East Midlands.  

At the Berlin Schonefeld, where easyJet handled over 3 million passengers last year, space at the terminal was an issue.  

According to an airport spokesman, instead of asking for expansion, CUSS was utilised instead to maximise the space. 

Currently in Malaysia, KLIA allows for self-service check-in at Express Rail Link’s KL Sentral station, and the Sepang LCC terminal is said to be considering offering the same service. If that materialises, it would mean that the new terminal is proactively competing with other LCC terminals in the region and going all out to draw greater numbers of passengers.  

Last week, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd signed an agreement with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to implement CUSS for the KLIA, and over time, this may perhaps be extended to the LCC-T. 

 

STORIES BY B.K. SIDHU (bksidhu@thestar.com.my), SUSAN TAM (Susantam@thestar.com.my) and GOH EE KOON (Koon@thestar.com.my)

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