4 December 2011

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) has fought back to say that it was building a bigger KLIA2 upon the request of its biggest customer, AirAsia.

It broke its silence after being criticised by AirAsia boss Tan Sri Tony Fernandes for building KLIA2 to cater to 45 million passengers, thus inflating the cost to RM4bil.

On its website, MAHB posted a document titled Why KLIA2 has to be bigger? which showed that AirAsia had estimated that passenger traffic at the new terminal would hit 28.7 million by 2015, 45.3 million by 2020 and 60.3 million by 2025.

The figures were more aggressive than MAHB's own projections for the same period, according to a graph included on the website.

MAHB said the new airport would cost between RM3.6bil and RM3.9bil and that AirAsia had asked for a fully automated baggage handling system from a semi-automated system, which caused the six-month delay in opening the airport.

KLIA2 will only be ready in April 2013.

AirAsia chairman Datuk Aziz Bakar said yesterday we had requested MAHB to start thinking of building a bigger KLIA2 and to expand its capacity to cater to 45 million passengers since there has been a series of delays in the completion of the airport. The initial plan was for the airport to handle 30 million passengers and be completed in 2011.

(Now) if they do not start preparing for more passengers then we will not have the capacity as we anticipate to achieve 30 million passenger growth by 2015/16, he said.

On the fully automated baggage system, Aziz said: We had asked for a semi-automated system but MAHB decided on a fully automated system and we agreed to it.

The controversy over the bigger airport has also sparked speculation over Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad's future in MAHB.

This led the market to speculate that he was supposed to meetKhazanah Nasional Bhd boss Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar yesterday. It could not be ascertained if the meeting took place.

Khazanah is a major shareholder with 54% stake in MAHB, and when contacted, its spokesman Mohd Asuki Abas said we do not comment on speculation.

On Friday, MAHB chairman Tan Sri Dr Aris Othman said Bashir had the full support of the management and board, quashing rumours the latter would be replaced.

Source: www.thestar.com.my