I was invited to a briefing by Malaysia Airports (MAB) at the Courtyard Garden somewhere in Jalan Dungun, Kuala Lumpur. After braving the horrendous traffic and the heavy rain, I managed to arrive slightly before 8pm. The moment I stepped into the restaurant, I was surprised to see a familiar face which I have seen in various media before. It was the face of Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad, the CEO of MAB. Then as cards were exchanged, the names that I saw on the cards were surprising too as all the top managements of MAB were there. There were the Sr. GM of Operations, Dato' Azmi Murad and GM of Corporate Communications, Nik Anis, among others. It made me curious but excited for the session to start.
The moment the briefing starts, with Tan Sri Bashir taking the lead, I can say that it was a public relation effort by MAB with the social media. When I look around the room, I can see a few familiar faces like Christopher Tock, Patchay, Thomas Yap, Daniel Cerventus and Firdaus 'Feeq' to name a few who are part business, travel and lifestyle bloggers. As the briefing was going on, they were basically tweeting about what was unveiled in front of their eyes. The briefing was on the specifications of the new klia2 which will be completed in 2013. And it started with this Youtube video :
After the video presentation, Tan Sri Bashir announced that there are no low cost terminal in the world for them to use as a reference, hence klia2 was built according to the need of the low cost operators such as AirAsia. Then Tan Sri Bashir gave us the facts and figures about the size of the terminal : 257,000; the contact stands : 68; the capacity to handle how many passengers : 45 Millions; the fully automated Baggage Handling System (BHS); a dedicated runaway (Runaway 3) an aerobridge (where plane can taxi below it to go from one side to another after landing and save time) and connectivity between KLIA and klia2. He also told us how MAB increased the capacity according to what is asked by AirAsia. The whole list of what klia2 has to offer can be found at MAB website : Latest News on klia2.
That was the kosher part of the briefing and as expected, questions came fast and quick with most of those who attended the event wanted to know what is the controversy that seems to be created by AirAsia. If you don't know anything about what is the stand-off between AirAsia and MAB is all about, read this blogpost by Tony Fernandes : Say no to airport tax increase and this report by Malaysian Insider about the issue (a two sided version and read the comment section to) : MAHB removes AirAsia anti-tax hike posters, stickers. So, this controversy is all about a hike of RM7-00 in contrast of us never knowing we had been paying airport tax through airlines we've flown in the pre-AirAsia era.
Here is my two sens worth.
The new klia2? Nice and amazing. I was told they are trying to emulate Dubai and Changi. There's hotels, there's retail experience and good restaurants/food outlets. Good and well. Here's a question I asked and didn't really get an answer. Will you have a resting area like what Dubai and Changi have for those who doesn't want to pay any hotels or whatever additional cost. A settee or a reclining seat which you can sleep on for 2 to 3 hours and a bathroom with shower facilities and such. The answer was not fully given meaning, they may not have it.
Then the issue with AirAsia. Sorry to say, I don't agree at all with AirAsia. This carrier thrive on every sen it collects from its consumer. Simple mathematics will show that they have been collecting additional charges without explaining why and which seems to go only into their pockets. And the eccentricities of its own, one Tony Fernandes which is trying so hard to be the next Richard Branson (whom he has a close relationship with) does not show any regards for others. Yes, he did bring low cost carrier in a big way into Asia but he is not the solve all, end all solutions. He still has a long way to go. And with an increase of airport tax, he is losing RM7-00 which he can play with to tax his next passenger. For all you know, anticipating an increase, he will increase his charges first. MAB is having a tough time as Tony is popular and a smart businessman.
I fly on leisure quite a lot and AirAsia is not my instant choice. I know people use AirAsia if they planned ahead and with their marketing strategy and their pay first, fly later promotion, they are quite popular. klia2 maybe relevant to be a better choice than the current LCCT but I may not be one of its frequent user when it comes into being. If the price increase of RM7-00 is to make sure klia2 will be a better terminal, for me, I would gladly accept it.
As for me, as I have tweeted after the briefing, what I find to be the best information I got from MAB is that a Victoria Secret's pop-up store has opened in the satellite building in KLIA. As for someone whose both kampungs are within the vicinity of both airports, I have long ago given up on having an airport which will benefit them as truthfully, it does not. Here is my long ago blogpost on the matter : How I lost my kampung...