Minimal impact on airport users from new charges

New regulated charge with a small increase will not dampen tourist arrivals in M’sia, says MAHB MD

by IZZAT RATNA / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

Malaysian Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) is certain that the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Amendment) Bill 2017, which was recently tabled in Parliament, would not have any adverse effect on passenger traffic in the country.

MAHB MD Datuk Badlisham Ghazali said so far, the new regulated charge with a small increase has not dampened tourist arrivals in Malaysia, as the fee imposed is rather minimal.

“We are not talking about a quantum of as high as RM50 or RM100 additional fee to purchase flight tickets. The hike would normally hover between RM1 and RM5, which is part of an overall increase in the overall operation.

“The propensity to travel has direct relations to the growth of the gross domestic product, people’s disposable income and society’s maturity level,” he told reporters at a media briefing in Sepang last Friday.

The first reading of the bill was tabled earlier last week, and should it be passed, RM1 would be charged to each international traveller which would be channelled into the Malaysian Aviation Commission’s (Mavcom) coffers.

The move came after the government decided to stop its funding for Mavcom’s activities.

The payment is expected to be imposed on both Malaysian and foreign air travellers, similar to the system that has been practised in many other countries.

Badlisham said Malaysia has all the trappings to encourage inbound travelling while enhancing international arrivals, especially with the weaker ringgit that has made the country the preferred destination.

“Even though people have saved up money for other things, travelling has generally become a part of one’s lifestyle, regardless of the sentiment,” he said.

Badlisham said the government is expected to consult MAHB to determine on the mechanism of the new airport tax once it is finalised at the federal level.

“Therefore, I’d have no information on when the new airport tax would be implemented,” he said.

MAHB’s international traffic recorded 5.3 million passengers with a year-on-year (YoY) increase of 12.3%, while domestic traffic improved by 2.9% to six million passengers, compared to the same period a year ago.

On the local front, airports in Malaysia registered 8.3 million passengers in July 2017, a 5.2% YoY growth over July 2016.

As it is, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) main terminal and KLIA2 recorded growth of 2.4% and 16.3% respectively, over July 2016 passenger numbers.

In order to increase efficiency and reduce traffic congestion, Badlisham said MAHB is planning to increase its overhead that would be used for several initiatives to revamp the airports’ facilities within the next few years.

“Moving forward, the immigration would transition foreign tourists to be allowed to check in at the Malaysian counters upon arrivals depending on the availability.

“We are also in talks with them to move all the electronic gates in one corner in order to ensure that we can manage the passengers more efficiently during low and high seasons,” he added.

Badlisham pointed out that MAHB is also expected to recruit close to 200 people this year, as well as upgrading automation for the facilities.

He added that the new initiatives would be conducted in various phases, depending on the economic and market conditions.

“For example, we have already spent some double-digit millions just for data analytics.

“We feel that all these concerted efforts would increase our efficiency level which, in turn, would positively impact the country’s economic growth in the long run,” he said.

At the moment, there are 54 counters in KLIA and more than 60 counters in KLIA2.

Passenger traffic to and from 12 countries recorded more than a 10% growth with tourists flying in from Indonesia, China, India, Vietnam, South Korea, the Philippines, Cambodia and Saudi Arabia.

The 27 airlines that registered double-digit growth for international passenger traffic include AirAsia X, Malindo Air, Indonesia AirAsia, Silk Air, All Nippon Airways, Oman Air, Xiamen Airlines, as well as Saudi Arabian Airlines.