27 February 2015
BY BRIAN MARTIN
Budget travel has already revolutionised the industry, but technology is bringing even more innovations.
IN this day and age where travel is a given, it’s no surprise that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has announced that it expects global air travel to grow significantly this year. Much of this growth will happen in South-East Asia. In Malaysia, it’s not an understatement to say that budget travel has revolutionised the airline industry.
With more airline choices than ever before, the onus is now on airports to cater and provide for the increase in passenger traffic. I know I’m late to the party, but I finally got a chance to visit klia2 this week.
Boy, was I impressed. Passengers can be forgiven for thinking they are at a shopping complex, not an airport.
klia2 is actually a mall set in an airport, or maybe the other way around. The sheer number of retail, food and service stores is simply amazing.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to explore the airport (it probably would have taken me the whole day) as I had an AirAsia flight to catch to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.
Which brings me to a question. As a relatively frequent traveller, I think it should be a given that free WiFi is a must at any sizeable airport.
International travel, with additional security measures in place, dictates that travellers must be in the airport three hours before a flight.
Passengers are spending more time at airports than ever before and while it’s good that passengers have access to a variety of shopping options in klia2, it’s also important that they have access to free WiFi.
I’m glad to say that klia2 has free WiFi. However, this service is only available for an hour upon your first online registration. In contrast, WiFi is free for three hours at KLIA.
Clark, a much smaller airport, has free WiFi, period. No time limit.
A quick check online will show you the availability of free WiFi at our neighbours in Changi, Singapore and Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok (two hours).
Personally, my first rule of travelling is to stay connected – at all times. Hence, airports that provide free WiFi are high on my list of service providers.
Next on my list is access to electrical ports/outlets. Not all airlines have ports to charge your phones and iPads, so it’s important that airports provide enough of these at strategic locations.
The one thing I noticed at klia2 is the amount of walking one has to do to get from check-in to immigration to the departure gates. It’s probably the most I’ve ever walked at any airport.
It would be helpful if Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) builds “walkalators” to help people move around more easily.
MAHB does provide free buggy rides but should increase the number of vehicles so families travelling with children and senior citizens will be sure to get a seat.
I know that klia2 was built as an upgrade rather than a replacement for the old LCCT terminal but in terms of facilities, there is definitely room for improvement.
The one thing that irritates me as a traveller is hidden airport costs.
At Clark, departing passengers are charged 500 pesos for airport and another 100 pesos for security taxes.
Back home, the airport tax or Passenger Service Charge (PSC) is added to your ticket price and paid to Malaysia Airports.
I can understand passengers paying a tax to use airport facilities, but charging them for security is a little bit over the top.
I am looking forward to using my smartphone on a plane soon.
The days when the flight stewardess will tell you to switch off your phones before takeoff will be over because technological advances will allow WiFi to be available 30,000ft in the air.
Another advance that travellers can look forward to is to choose who you sit next to. Networking can be taken to greater heights because passengers of Malaysia Airlines will soon be able to choose seat-mates based on social media profiles – mile-high dating anyone?
Another innovation has already been put to use at Narita Airport in Tokyo. Location-specific alerts enabled by nearby bluetooth sensors will buzz your phone to let you know how long it will take for you to reach your gate.
Closer to home, we can look forward to more shopping malls at airports. MAHB will open the Mitsui Outlet Park in May, just 6km from KLIA.
Mitsui will be the largest factory outlet shopping mall in South-East Asia and together with KLIA and klia2, it will form the future airport city called KLIA Aeropolis – a hub for aviation, aerospace and logistics.
Brian Martin, executive editor of The Star, would like to come clean. He has vested interest in the proposed assessment rate hike since he’s a resident of Kuala Lumpur.
Executive editor Brian Martin believes that the recent move by certain airlines to do away with the fuel surcharge will further spur travel in the region. The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
Original Source: thestar.com.my