Low cost carrier AirAsia is expected to start its operations this December 8 at Melaka's Batu Berendam Airport (LTBB) which is undergoing a facelift worth RM131.5 million.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said six destinations had been identified by Air Asia for its initial operations comprising four places in Sumatra and two domestic destinations.
"The destinations jointly agreed upon, using the Boeing 737 aircraft, are Palembang, Pekan Baru, Padang and Medan in Sumatra, and Pulau Pinang and Langkawi," he told reporters after chairing the Exco meeting here Wednesday.
Also present at Wednesday's event was Air Asia chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, chairman of Air Asia Datuk Aziz Bakar and the general manager of Malaysia Airports Bhd, Abdul Rahman Karim.
Mohd Ali said the four major towns in Sumatra were selected based on their potential for medical tourism while Pulau Pinang and Langkawi for their popularity as tourist destinations.
"Among other destinations being suggested are Jakarta, Kota Kinabalu and Nanjing in China and we have opened negotiations to other airline companies besides Air Asia which showed an early commitment to use the LTBB," he said.
The expansion and upgrading work on LTBB which started last April is expected to be completed in April next year and a major aim is to provide facilities to medical tourists.
The number of medical tourists who sought medical assistance in the specialist hospital in Melaka is estimated to have gone up to more than 67,000 people last year compared with 18,000 people in 2004 with most of them coming from Sumatra.
Work on LTBB is being carried out by the Uni-Integrated consortium which will construct a new terminal covering 7,000 sq metres and is expected to be equipped with various facilities to cater to both domestic and international flights.
Mohd Ali said the Batu Berendam airport will be able to handle a capacity of 1.5 million passengers a year, adding that some 500,000 visitors were expected in the first five years.
On the runway, which would have to be extended by 400 metres to 2,200 metres from the current 1,800 metres, he said the contractors involved in the expansion of LTBB had agreed to first bear the cost of RM40 million.
"I am giving the guarantee to the contractors that the state government will pay the RM40 million after a period of several years," he said.
He said that the application for the RM40 million has been also submitted to the Transport Ministry and is currently under consideration.
The extension of the runway to 2,200 metres is in line with international specifications for the safe and comfortable landing of an Airbus 320.
Meanwhile, Tony said Air Asia was ready to cooperate with the Melaka government. He also described Melaka as having great potential as a tourist destination especially in medical tourism.
"Coincidentally, Dec 8 is also the anniversary date of Air Asia and we are ready to take on a role in LTBB and hope to transport many tourists through the LTBB," he said.
Source : Bernama
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