Interlining — the 1st step to becoming an aviation hub

By interlining at the airside, the airport operator could improve the minimum connecting time between terminals, says Raja Azmi


MALAYSIA Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) aims to provide interlining services for airlines as the first step of making the country a preferred aviation hub in the region.

MAHB group CEO Raja Azmi Raja Nazuddin (picture) said interlining will provide convenience to passengers which will in turn make them choose Malaysia over other countries as a transit point between flights.

“There are some untapped potentials in Malaysia for us to actually expand further the full service carrier segment in order to meet the criteria of a good aviation hub,” he said.

Malaysia this year has about 47% of full service carriers and 53% low-cost carriers.

“If you look at aviation hubs in Frankfurt Airport, German; Heathrow Airport, London; and the Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, the Netherlands, among others; they have closer to 80% of full service carriers segment. Even Changi Airport, Singapore, has about 70% of full service carriers,” he said at the NST Insight: “Malaysia as a Preferred Aviation Hub — Are We There Yet?” live discussion yesterday.

He said by interlining at the airside, the airport operator could improve the minimum connecting time between terminals, which is currently at three hours. Raja Azmi said for a start, MAHB wants to have a seamless connection for baggage transfers at the airside.

“Moving forward, when the baggage system of the airlines start to talk to each other, that is when we eventually want to get into interlining for passengers,” he added.

He said it may not be that costly for MAHB if there is no new construction of physical infrastructure to connect the terminals.

“We can do bussing and interline the baggage systems,” Raja Azmi said. “We would not be forcing airlines to interline, however, we want to provide that service for them,” he added.

The Malaysian Reserve reported in July that MAHB’s proposal to establish a fully integrated terminal at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and KLIA2 could be hampered and delayed due to resistance from some airline operators.

According to a source close to the development, the plan may face some hurdles should the government or MAHB could not convince the airlines to agree with the move, although the initiative could shorten customers’ connecting time and improve overall aviation business productivity at KLIA.

“The Kuala Lumpur (KUL) Masterplan” may provide an option either to build a fully integrated airside transfer, such as tunnelling or bridge, or start with a simpler way like bussing as a transition, as it will not involve so much of capital expenditure, before a proper facility could be built up later.

“Most airlines agree to this, but there are also airlines that are reluctant with this concept because they want to maximise their own capacity at the single airport, instead of sharing the connectivity that would be beneficial for the passengers,” the source said.

According to him, the drafting of the masterplan is expected to be concluded soon, where MAHB is expected to make an official announcement subsequently after.

It is learnt that the proposal has been discussed since a decade ago, even before KLIA was constructed in 1998.

*Editor’s note: The article has been edited for correctness and clarity based on the feedback from related stakeholders.