We are the victims, claims AirAsia

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Local low-cost carrier AirAsia today claimed that it is the “victim” in the ongoing tiff with Malaysian Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) over the construction of the new KLIA2 low-cost air terminal.

“We are the victims here... we are at the mercy of MAHB, which is the only party building airports here,” said the carrier’s commercial director Jasmine Lee.

Speaking at a press conference at the airline’s office in the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT), Sepang, today, Lee explained that MAHB had neglected to consult AirAsia prior to planning the new terminal.

She related how when MAHB was tasked with building KLIA2 in April 2008, it was supposed to form a joint committee with the budget airline, which would be the main tenant, to iron out the planning, design and incorporate requirements essential to AirAsia operations.

Alas, she said, no committee was formed and no joint planning took place. Instead MAHB went ahead unilaterally, with its own design.

This, Lee argued, resulted in AirAsia's requirements as the main tenant not being considered. This has forced the airline to request the requirements now, so as to ensure that its operations in the completed terminal would not be adversely impacted.

She said it was not AirAsia's fault that it had to make the requests now, as the carrier was never consulted prior to the design and ongoing construction of the new terminal.

Quizzed about the 47 meetings that MAHB said in a statement yesterday took place between all stakeholders to discuss and plan the new terminal since 2008, AirAsia chief operations officer Bo Lingam admitted that AirAsia’s representatives attended them but said these were all “one-sided meetings”.

“It’s like they listened to our requirements, and then said that they will see if they can accommodate them,” Lingam lamented.

He said the delays in MAHB’s construction timeline for KLIA2' was also forcing AirAsia to defer deliveries of aircraft it had already purchased, putting a damper on its expansion plans.

While admitting that MAHB did not totally disregard their requirements, AirAsia regional head for regulatary issues and infrastructure development Ashok Kumar maintained that the airport operator had dismissed many requirements “critical” to the budget carrier’s operations.

And whatever accommodations that were made, agreed all the AirAsia top guns at the press conference today, were far less than other airport operators conceded to the budget carrier in other countries it operates in.

‘New runway on the other side of the terminal’

Management pilots Captain Fareh Ishraf Mazputra and Captain Chin Nyok San explained that one problem was the decision to site the carrier’s air operations at a new runway on the other side of the terminal, which will require them to cross another runway and taxi further to get there.

This problematic arrangement, they said, created safety issues and it could also disrupt scheduled landings and take-offs every time they needed to cross the runway.

Additionally, it would potentially cost AirAsia RM40 million a year on extra fuel for the taxiing required to reach the new runway.

This problem could have been solved, the captains said, if MAHB had talked to them first as they did not require a new runway.

Kumar chimed in, saying similarly, AirAsia's support services for catering and cargo would also have to travel further to the new operations area, without a holding area or forward base for them to operate from, as their kitchen and cargo facilities would still be based at the current site, quite some way from the new terminal.

On top of it all, Lee added, they never had any service level agreement (SLA) with MAHB for the current LCCT, which makes it problematic, like a tenant living in a landlord’s house without a tenancy agreement.

The arrangement, she reiterated, puts AirAsia at the mercy of MAHB, which could unilaterally change the conditions of use of the facilities.

Lee added that part of what they were asking was for MAHB to give them an SLA for the current facilities as well as guarantee an SLA for the new terminal to safeguard the rights of both parties.

AirAsia also wants a list of all projected charges at the new facilities, so that it can plan ahead.

AirAsia and MAHB had been at each other’s throats after the airport operator accused the budget carrier of being part of the reason why the cost for KLIA2 ballooned.

This took place after AirAsia chief Tony Fernendes hit out at MAHB for spending too much on a low-cost air terminal.

VIDEO l 11.22 mins

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