SEPANG: Asian airlines are making a beeline to the KL International Airport, with the Philippine Airlines being the latest to come back.
The airline is the 42nd airline to operate from and make the KLIA its regional hub.
Two others – Royal Brunei Airlines and Air Mauritius – have decided to increase their flights to Malaysia.
Traffic has also started to come back to the level before the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) struck the travelling industry, giving hopes that the passenger traffic at KLIA will still grow by 4% this year.
Transport Minister Datuk Chan Kong Choy said the Philippines carrier would start flying to KLIA from Manila from Sunday, with four weekly flights using a Boeing 737 aircraft.
He said Royal Brunei would now fly twice weekly from Bandar Seri Begawan while Air Mauritius has bumped up its twice-weekly flights to thrice weekly. Both airlines will increase their flights by the end of the year.
Speaking to reporters after launching the New Route Asia seminar at the Pan Pacific Hotel here, Chan said these additional flights and airlines opera-
ting out of KLIA would help to
increase the number of passengers handled by the airport.
The seminar gathered some 135 delegates from various airlines, airports and other travel industry players for a three-day conference beginning yesterday.
This is the first time such a seminar is held in Asia, with Asian destinations in mind.
Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd was given the contract to organise the seminar for the next two years.
Chan said arrivals at KLIA up till end of last month numbered some 12.49 million passengers, a reduction of 3.6% compared to last year.
“This was despite crises like the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and the Iraqi war, which badly affected travel between April and July.
“With traffic coming back to pre-SARS level in August, we are confident the last quarter will mark up the figure and we expect a growth of 4% in passenger traffic,” he said.
Chan said China and India were likely to be the catalysts for the region’s intra-Asia air transport growth, due to the two countries' large population.
“China alone has forecast 10% annual air passenger growth until the year 2020, which will significantly contribute to the development of the air travel potential of this region,” he said.
Chan said he had recently travelled to Shanghai for talks with a few regional airlines on the possibility of flying to KLIA.
“We are also in ongoing discussions with many of the major airlines in Europe, to ask them to use KLIA as their Asian hub,” he said.
To a question whether budget airline Air Asia was facing problems with Singaporean authorities on the operation of its feeder buses from Senai Airport in Johor to the republic, Chan said:
“I will be meeting officials from Air Asia to talk to them and understand the actual problems they are facing.
“And if need be, the Government will come in to assist them.”