AIRPORTS are not airports when the runways are not fit for aeroplanes to land on and to take off from. Apparently this is the problem of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2 (klia2) which was designed for low-cost carriers. This is a controversy that began even before the tenants arrived, the anchor tenant being AirAsia. Flooded and cracked, the state of klia2’s taxiways has always been a bone of contention and now, according to AirAsia, the problems have yet to be effectively ironed out by Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), the body responsible. AirAsia is, consequently, threatening to move back to the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Sepang, which it was forced to vacate when the new klia2 terminal was deemed ready by MAHB.

And, in a case of once bitten twice shy, AirAsia has announced that it is not prepared to move its base from Kota Kinabalu’s international airport Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 either. Citing the horrors of operating from klia2 and that the new premises offered in Kota Kinabalu cannot accommodate its expansion plans, AirAsia intends to stay put. Naturally, there are two sides to the story but given the nature of the business AirAsia operates in, it is a captive market for MAHB. Airlines cannot set up airports. In Malaysia flight infrastructure is provided for by the government and then space is leased to the airlines. This is a necessary consequence of the cross border character of the business which flies over countries and zones. Things do come down to issues needing solutions by and between governments. Flight paths, airport stops and destinations, when a flight is international, are not matters that can be handled by commercial entities alone.

Nevertheless, airport authorities cannot operate with no regard for the needs of their clients. Captive or not the airline business deals with state-of-the-art technology that must be handled with care as it ferries passengers. One false move can mean an accident with untold consequences. The runways are especially important. No good a flashy terminal with its splendid duty-free shopping, cafes, restaurants and lounges when outside the tarmac is nothing less than dangerous. And, if AirAsia is to be believed, this is klia2. As a consequence the group chief operating officer of AirAsia claims that the airline can do much better if it had not been hampered by the wanting physical conditions that have meant additional expenses as it tries to accommodate the deficiencies.

To not empathise with the claimed plight of AirAsia is to ignore its contribution to the national economy and national pride. MAHB is obliged to facilitate all the airlines that operate in KLIA, irrespective of whether they are low-cost or mainline carriers. For, ultimately, the consideration here is flight safety. To put the low-cost carriers at risk by not providing first class infrastructure at klia2 is to open itself to lawsuits should anything untoward occur. And when that happens, it would be Malaysian taxpayers who must pay financially and bear the humiliation caused by morons.