Wednesday, December 20, 2006

MAB has Big Plans ahead for LCCT

MAB has Big Plans ahead for LCCT

MALAYSIA Airports Bhd (MAB) has a tough job. After all, it operates 39 airports in Malaysia, including the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT-KLIA) in Sepang. When common problems faced by air travellers, visitors and staff at the terminal were highlighted recently, MAB didn’t take cover. Instead, it decided to address the issue with MAB senior general manager for operations Datuk Azmi Murad having the answers.

MALAYSIA Airports Bhd (MAB) looks at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT-KLIA) as a Malaysian product that isn’t there yet. It has room for improvement and progress. MAB senior general manager for operations Datuk Azmi Murad explains.

Star Metro (SM): What was the basis behind LCCT-KLIA’s deisgn?
Azmi: IT was constructed based on what was required of a low-cost carrier terminal. Many rounds of discussions were held with low-cost airline operator AirAsia to ascertain precisely what was required.
The LCCT fits into the business model of a low-cost carrier terminal. Prior to construction, we visited the Hahn Airport in Germany and Luton Airport in the UK as well as several LCCTs in the United States to gain a better perspective.

Azmi... ‘We are serious in our efforts to get rid of touts.’The purpose-built terminal took nine months to build and cost RM108mil. It has a built-up area spanning 35,292 sq m with 28,000 sq m dedicated to the passenger level.
Four airlines operate out of LCCT, namely AirAsia, Thai Air Asia, AWAIR and Cebu Pacific, the first foreign-owned low cost carrier to utilise the terminal.

SM: What is the current capacity of the LCCT?
Azmi: The LCCT was built for 10 million passengers per annum and since opening this year, five million travellers have passed through its doors.
We have plans to expand the terminal to accommodate an additional five million travellers. If, in future, the number of travellers increases further, we will look for another terminal. We have the space.

SM: Travellers often complain about the lack of seats. Is MAB planning to increase the number of seats in the waiting area?
Azmi: We began with 1,200 seats and eventually increased to 1,800 seats - 800 for domestic departure, 600 for international departure and 400 for the public area. An additional 100 seats have been placed at the common area outside the terminal.
There are 1,500 trolleys for the LCCT and we view this as sufficient as KLIA is equipped with 4,900 trolleys for 25 million passengers.

SM: Is there a shortage of electronic display boards at the LCCT? Why are white boards being used?
Azmi: MAB uses white boards to aid the airlines.

Say a flight from Bangkok lands and the same aircraft is headed for Penang later. To save time, the aircraft will land at the domestic bay but international passengers will pass through a special gate at the domestic arrival lounge, leading to the immigration counters.
Similarly, another special gate is available for domestic passengers near the immigration counters. We have made arrangements with the immigration for nine such flights daily.
Information for these special flights is written on white boards for the benefit of those picking up friends and family.
MAB will also install monitors to display flight information at departure gates to avoid confusion especially for transit passengers.

SM: Passengers have to use an uncovered walkway from the tarmac to aeroplanes. Any plans to address the situation?
Azmi: AirAsia made the request for a covered walkway only recently. Work will start for covered walkways between aircraft parking bays soon and will be completed in six months. We have provided 30 parking bays for aircrafts.

SM: Will there be a covered car park in future for the added convenience of travellers?
Azmi: Plans to build a multi-storey car park are under consideration.

SM: Is public transport sufficient?
Azmi: An airport shuttle plies between KLIA and the LCCT while 800 taxi permits were awarded for the terminal. City taxis are also allowed to send and pick-up passengers. Those using the ERL catch the airport shuttle from KLIA to the LCCT.

SM: How is MAB dealing with touts?
Azmi: We are serious in our efforts to get rid of touts both at KLIA and the LCCT.
There are more stringent rules now with Section 110A added to the Road Transport Act 1987, whereby touts fleecing passengers at airports, and bus and ferry terminals can face up to five years in jail, a fine of up to RM50,000 or both.
MAB is working closely with the police and the Road Transport Department and arrests have been made.

SM: Travellers from KLIA have to bring their heavy luggage with them on board the buses. Will inter-terminal baggage service be available in future?
Azmi: When the terminal began operations, MAB offered the use of four new buses to transfer passengers with heavy luggage between terminals but airline companies refused the offer. We are still willing to offer the service but arrangements must be made for baggage handlers.

SM: How is baggage pilferage being addressed?
Azmi: MAB has taken many measures to address baggage pilferage. We have increased the number of CCTVs, surveillance on staff and carry out random checks to curb pilferage. Any staff found in possession of pilfered items will be removed from the terminal grounds and his contract will be terminated.

SM: Are there plans to add F&B outlets at the LCCT? Travellers and staff say prices are steep.
Azmi: MAB has plans for a food court and it should be operational by the third quarter of next year.
Food prices have been brought down following feedback from travellers and staff. We ensure prices are the same or less than KLIA or KLCC.
Existing outlets also give discounts to staff.

SM: What about additional facilities in future?
Azmi: We hope to increase the number of duty-free shops and introduce a baggage-wrapping service. Shower facilities will be available in future along with a passenger lounge where travellers pay a fee to relax and enjoy food and drinks.

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