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Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd is confident of handling about 100 million passengers across its airports in Malaysia by end of 2019, said group chief executive officer Raja Azmi Raja Nazuddin. [NSTP/EIZAIRI SHAMSUDIN]

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) is confident of handling about 100 million passengers across its airports in Malaysia by end of 2019, said group chief executive officer Raja Azmi Raja Nazuddin.

He said the airport operator remains on track to meet its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation target, despite of handling 99.03 million passengers for 2018 locally.

“We are confident on the achievability of our 2019 passenger growth targets. Based on prevailing economic conditions and airlines seat capacity offered, Malaysia passenger traffic in 2019 is expected to grow by 4.9 per cent with international and domestic passenger traffic growing at 2.4 per cent and 7.6 per cent, respectively,” he told NST Business.

Raja Azmi said MAHB foresees some further correction in the domestic sector and a moderate growth for international this year.

“Traffic growth is expected to remain vulnerable with significant changes in the macro-economic environment despite the lower fuel price expected,” he added.

Raja Azmi cautioned that the increasing trade tension between US and China remains a concern, citing that China and several Asian economies are projected to experience somewhat weaker growth in 2019.

“However, the recent announcement made to extend the visa exemptions for China and India tourists to December 2019 is expected to help spur traffic.

On the operational front, Raja Azmi said MAHB expects 2019 to be the year to focus on key systems optimisation and upgrading projects to cater for increased efficiency and capacity as well as elevating service levels.

On the airports operator’s missed target for passenger volume last year, MAHB said 2018’s growth was lower than expected from the forecast of 6.3 per cent.

Raja Azmi said this was attributed to a softening in demand during the year due to uncertainties resulting from the 14th general election (GE14) and shift by some local carriers in their airlines seat capacity offering from domestic to international sectors.

“All months leading to the election registered negative performance for the domestic sector, a rather unusual phenomenon during election years.

“We had anticipated higher passenger movements based on historical data which had shown that election years had contributed to higher passenger traffic movements,” he said.

He said Malaysia’s traffic performance was mainly driven by international sectors and international passenger traffic for Malaysia makes up more than 50 per cent of total passenger traffic movements.

Nationwide, MAHB welcomed 11 new airlines at its airports and more than 30 new services (routes) to international destinations were added by local and foreign carriers last year.

Azmi also said synergistic collaboration between MAHB and AirAsia with the cooperation of government agencies such as the Immigration Department of Malaysia and the Royal Malaysian Customs will create a great impact for the airlines in terms of better operational efficiency and turnaround time.

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