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AirAsia’s Global Ventures Out Of Touch With Reality

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Dear Tan Sri Tony,

I’ve followed with much interest your continuing spat with Malaysia Airports. Although it is commendable that you continue to fight for the common man, your busy schedule with global ventures you seem to be out of touch with the reality on the local front. Let me highlight a few things that come to my mind.

1. I’m curious to know how you intend to transform klia2 into ‘Dubai’. You accuse Malaysia Airports of building a “grandiose” terminal but you fail to see that Dubai airport, when making your reference, is the very example of extravagance. You would like KLIA to match the Dubais, Changis and Bangkoks of the world but don’t allow the type of infrastructure to take place. You also don’t seem to be aware that Dubai airport have been charging passengers RM85 since 2009 and a further RM38 since June 2016. It has never been free as you mentioned.

2. To ‘be Dubai’ you need to build ‘Dubai’. It wouldn’t have mattered what kind of terminal klia2 was or at what cost it was built at, KL and Negeri Sembilan would still be KL and Negeri Sembilan without the Burj Khalifa, The Palm etc. Yes, Dubai was a ‘piece of sand’ as you put it but Dubai city was built before Dubai Airport (as we know it today) which only came about late 2008. Simply building a shed airport and dropping airport charges to absolute zero would not turn Port Dickson into the next Dubai.

3. Is Dubai even a low cost hub? How about Singapore and Bangkok? Yes, they have huge traffic numbers but 75% of them are carried by Full Service Carriers and benefit from compounded effect of their far-ranging networks. In Malaysia, we should note that with an ever shrinking local Full Service Carrier cannibalised by low airport charges at klia2 and skewed incentives and unpaid charges, KLIA’s traffic ranking continue to slip downwards. AirAsia is a point to point with limited range to about 100 destinations. How then would you help make a Dubai that has extensive connectivity well over 1000 destinations through interlining? In actuality, you are preventing KLIA from becoming a hub by seeking favours for your low cost business. Making KL your low cost hub does not make KL a tourist hub destination. There is a difference.

4. You also would like Malaysia to emulate Singapore. Changi airport, like Dubai, even charge their transfer passengers all sorts of fees. Despite these charges (higher than KLIA), their traffic continues to grow. So why are you arguing that it would have the opposite effect with Malaysia? Are they also giving the low cost carriers there privileged low charges like what the gullible Malaysia Airports is doing?

5. And as for your continued fascination with the RM4 billion spent on klia2, you keep saying you could have a terminal built for RM2 billion. I remember reading that this 30 million passenger terminal (klia2 is for 45 million) did not include the cost of the land you would have needed from Sime, surrounding infrastructures and the mountain at KLIA East you would have had to have remove for your aircraft to fly safely over. For RM4 billion, MAHB gave you a terminal area of over 360,000 m2. Your RM2 (+++??) billion, as you advertised on you website, would have gotten you only 85,000 m2. A sardine can would have had more space for movement.

6. I’ve seen that your customers are mainly outbound Malaysians and inbound labourers from Indonesia and India. Malaysia Airports may not be bothered about this but as an economist, how exactly is AirAsia contributing towards inbound tourism?

7. With so many aircrafts yet to be delivered, why are you spending a further RM61 billion? Isn’t that a drain from Malaysia’s economy to France’s? At least the RM4 billion on klia2 helped to generate local economy and create work here in Malaysia. Even worse, all those aircraft are being used for your foreign ventures with revenue going to those countries.

I also have an emotional point to raise. In keeping klia2 charge low, the Government surely has to pay for airport development not just for KLIA but also at all other airports. I can only imagine this money coming from GST paid by my unemployed grandmother in the kampung who has never even seen an aircraft up close. She is ok with supporting hospitals and schools but not subsidise a private businessman. Come on Tony, time to discard the crutches and stand on your own two feet.

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