5 December 2011
I am indeed surprised to have read that in the recent past, a low cost carrier was permitted to continue utilising airports operated by Malaysian Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) and choose as to when and whether they felt like paying up their dues.
Thank God, it was paid up eventually, otherwise public Malaysian funds would have been compromised.
I fret as to what would happen to airports’ operations, hygiene, efficiency and safety, if all airlines paid as and when they wished to airport operators.
Now, at least one low cost carrier has upped it all, by publicly asking for public support to protest against the payment of the increased airport tax from the 50 per cent discounted rate for the LCCT at KLIA and Kota Kinabalu of RM25 per head per trip to the new rate of RM32 and for other airports from RM51 to RM65.
There have been brickbats thrown at MAHB about the increased airport tax.
In general, if passengers were to walk to the aircraft, it should not be a long walk as there are many safety and other issues on the tarmac of airports.
Tractors, loaders, kitchen vehicles, fuel vehicles, water vehicles, maintenance and engineering vehicles, auxiliary power units, cleaning crew vehicles are constantly on the move on the tarmac.
To aggravate matters, Malaysia has plenty of rainy days which add to the dangers on the tarmac. Some may claim that in Singapore’s budget terminal, passengers also walk but is it a short distance between the aircraft to the terminal?
The LCCT and the non-aerobridge aided loading and disembarking of passengers is also a major chore for handicapped passengers.
I had the misfortune to suffer from a serious leg injury and was using crutches and then a walking stick for over nine months.
I wrote off the LCCTs as it was a pain to witness the low level of handicapped services provided by the low cost carrier personnel, from pushing the wheelchair to lifting the vehicle for boarding and disembarking handicapped passengers and their baggage.
This is in spite of having to pay extra fees for the services as compared to a full service carrier.
I was also intrigued by a low cost carrier’s outburst over the increased airport tax by MAHB, when this particular carrier had imposed fees for the most basic of services needed for air travel such as over the counter check-in which is much-needed by the elderly and non-IT savvy, wheelchair bound passengers in need of aid to travel to the aircraft and to board and disembark from the aircraft.
What about the imposition of fees for drinks and meals on board the flights and not permitting passengers from bringing in their own drinks and dry foods for their own consumption?
I wonder what is so wrong with MAHB’s airport tax increase, not that I am for any unnecessary price and fee hike but I am of the opinion that in the last decade or so, the MAHB team has been doing an excellent job, with regular renovations to bring the airports on par with reputable international airports in the region, more airlines a calling, a creation of a buzzing atmosphere with ever-evolving methods being employed to increase efficiency, safety (save at the LCCT) and comfort for passengers.
In fact, it is a welcome fact to note that MAHB has decided to fit klia2 with aerobridges.
I have often wondered about the safety of operations at the LCCT where millions of passengers per year are exposed to the elements, compromised of their safety and well being by walking and zig-zagging amidst the myriad of tarmac vehicles and equipment.
Everytime the elderly, pregnant, mothers with children or babies, the sick and lesser handicapped uses the LCCT or boards using the steps, I am sure that untold dangers unfold in their minds, compromised only by the mere fact that they are using a cheap fare airline and accept the compromised safety and quality of services.
I will encourage MAHB and the Civil Aviation Authority to enforce what is necessary in accordance to the International Air Transport Association (ICAO) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and not to continue to compromise passenger safety for any user of MAHB operated airports.
MAHB and the CAA Malaysia should continue with its ever improving record and image.
Cheah Cheong Tian