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TJ BT: Kemelut Nasib MAS dan KLIA
By Kapal Berita

15/10/2000 4:22 am Sun

TJ Ringkas:


Ling Liong Sik merungut

"Ia amat menyedihkan. Ekonomi kekadang zalim"

Kenyataan itu terukir bila BA mengumumkan ia akan membatalkan laluan menerusi KLIA. Ini akan menyebabkan kerugian $A312 setahun kepada KLIA.

Kerajaan membelanjakan RM10 billion untuk KLIA. Walaupun ia lebih murah dari lapangan terbang Chek Lap Kok airport di Hongkong, Malaysia menghadapi saingan sengit.

Thailand sedang membina S$4.9 billion lapangan terbang manakala Singapura akan menyudahkan terminal ketiganya yang termoden di CHangi dengan belanja S$1.54 billion menjelang 2006.

Mengikut analis Changi lebih menarik kerana ia merupakan lapangan terbang yang tercekap dan lebih berisi berbanding KLIA. Tindakkan BA akan menyebabkan 100,000 penumpang terbang ke Singapura.

Setakat ini hanya Northwest Airlines terbang ke KLIA. Syarikat Amerikan lain -- United Airlines, American Airlines dan Continental Airlines -- beroperasi di Changi. Begitu juga Lufthansa, Air France, Air New Zealand, Scandinavian Airlines dan SwissAir.

Jumlah penumpang yg sedikit menggunakan KLIA (yang mampu menampung 25 juta penumpang setahun itu) adalah diluar jangkaan. Menurut MAHB, KLIA kini mengurus 5 juta penumpang antarabangsa dan 3 juta domestik dlm 6 bulan pertama tahun ini. Namun kurang 200,000 penumpang menggunakan KLIA sebagai transit.

Selain itu harapan KLIA untuk menjadi pusat terbang amat bergantung kepada MAS juga. Malangnya MAS setakat ini gagal untuk berantai dengan Oneworld atau Qualiflyer, Selain itu Naluri Berhad kepunyaan Tahuddin Ramli pula sedang kepingin menjual 29% sahamnya di dalam MAS kpd pihak asing. Cakap-cakep dengan pihak Qantas dan Swissair kelihatan menemui jalan buntu...


13 Oct 2000

BA move to scrap route seen hitting KL air hub ambitions S'pore to gain from diversion of flights come April: analysts

From Eddie Toh in Kuala Lumpur and Neil Behrmann in London

BRITISH Airways' drastic decision to scrap all flights to the Malaysian capital by next April will deal a serious blow to Kuala Lumpur International Airport's ambition of becoming a major aviation hub in the region, industry players and analysts said.

The British carrier's decision will also set back the Malaysian government's plan to boost the current low utilisation of the Malaysian airport.

"It's very sad. Economics is cruel sometimes," lamented Malaysian Transport Minister Ling Liong Sik following BA's announcement on Wednesday to cancel the route, citing estimated losses of $A312 million (S$30.7 million) per annum.

The Malaysian government had spent almost RM10 billion (S$4.6 billion) to build the ultra-modern airport 50 km south of KL in a bid to turn the country into the main gateway to the rest of the region.

Though substantially cheaper than the US$20 billion (S$35 billion) Chek Lap Kok airport in Hongkong, Malaysia's air-hub ambitions face increasing challenge from neighbouring countries.

Thailand is set to build a 120 billion baht (S$4.9 billion) airport south-east of Bangkok, while Singapore will complete its third and most modern terminal at a cost of S$1.54 billion by 2006.

Analysts said Singapore's Changi Airport may just emerge the winner in the hotly contested regional race. "Landing in Changi is the same as landing in KL. By route analysis, flights to Changi are better filled compared with KL. It is more feasible to perhaps increase flights to Singapore," said Yee Yang Chien, head of research at HLG Securities.

For instance, BA will divert about 100,000 passengers a year to Singapore when it scraps the KL route.

BA said: "From Heathrow, British Airways will suspend all services to Kuala Lumpur from the start of next summer season, because of the poor commercial performance of the route. It will offer customers connections to Malaysia over Singapore and maintain a sales presence in the country."

The BA blow is untimely as Malaysia is still struggling to convince many major airlines to land at KLIA three years after its opening. So far, KLIA has attracted 33 airlines. In contrast, Changi Airport's two terminals handle almost 60 carriers.

More significantly, many big-time carriers have not chosen KLIA as the main point of connectivity to the rest of the region.

Only one American carrier, Northwest Airlines, flies to KLIA. Other American carriers -- United Airlines, American Airlines and Continental Airlines -- operate out of Changi. Other big names conspicuously absent at KLIA include Lufthansa, Air France, Air New Zealand, Scandinavian Airlines and SwissAir.

The number of travellers using KLIA -- designed to handle 25 million passengers a year and up to 60 million travellers by 2020 -- has been below expectations.

According to Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, the manager of KLIA, the airport handled five million international passengers and three million domestic travellers in the first six months of this year. However, less than 200,000 passengers used KLIA as a transit point during the same period.

But MAB chairman Basir Ismail was unperturbed. He told BT yesterday: "It's no big deal. They (British Airways) only come four times a week."

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who just returned from a 10-day working trip to Britain, declined to comment on BA's decision. He said he wanted to get further details on the matter first.

It is unclear at this juncture if Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will benefit from BA's move.

MAS's most profitable: "This route is MAS's most profitable but whether MAS is able to put more flights on this route to take advantage of the situation will depend on landing rights," said CIMB Securities.

KLIA's plan to become the aviation heart of the region also hinges on MAS's ability to join one of the global alliances.

MAS, controlled by Tajudin Ramli, is still mulling over the option of joining either Oneworld, of which BA is a member, or Qualiflyer, which is led by SwissAir. Mr Tajudin's Naluri Bhd is in the midst of selling some of its 29 per cent stake in MAS to a foreign party. But talks with Oneworld's Qantas Airways and SwissAir seemed to have fizzled out.

Replying to BT queries, Jemma Moore said: "We have taken every appropriate action, including changing aircraft type and altering our frequencies, to see if we can maintain the route. However, these have been without success and we therefore have had to make the difficult decision to suspend the route."

On whether BA will raise the number of flights to Singapore, she said: "At the moment we have no plans to extend our services to Singapore. We operate 24 services a week (including joint services with Qantas) and offer a wide number of connections on to Australia."

Cost pressures and a move to concentrate on profitable routes are behind British Airway's decision, officials in London say.

The KL route cut is part of an overall plan to slash unprofitable passenger capacity, a BA official said. BA route capacity will fall by 10 per cent in the next twelve months, affecting various routes including European, she said.

In the meantime, BA is raising the proportion of business-class passengers by selling the huge Boeing 747 jumbos -- which offer more seats for economy-class passengers, and replacing them with the smaller 777 aircraft.

This will increase the proportion of higher-paying passengers. While the numbers of first class passengers remain at 14 and business-class passengers at 40, the proportion of these high fare paying passengers to the total number of seats in the aircraft rises to around 20 per cent from 14 per cent.

Officials said the 747s that fly the KL route will be sold.

BA's woes: Despite a marginal improvement in results during the quarter ended June this year, BA is suffering from the huge increase in fuel prices and competition from carriers such as Virgin.

It also wants to merge with another airline (there have been rumours that SwissAir is a candidate) following the late September collapse of its merger with KLM, analysts say.

BA's shares are languishing at 290 pence but are up from February's low of 261 pence.

"We must address poorly performing routes and assets that are not adding value," said BA chief executive Rod Eddington.