Thursday, December 11, 2008

LCCT international arrival hall ahead of schedule

THE new international arrival hall at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) at Sepang in Selangor will open for operation on Dec 15, weeks ahead of its original scheduled date.

The hall is part of the RM160mil new wing constructed under the LCCT expansion plan.

The whole wing is also expected to be fully ready for operation earlier than the original completion date of March 15 next year.

Spacious and hardly low-cost: Malaysia Airports Bhd (MAB) senior general manager for operations Datuk Azmi Murad at the new international arrival hall within the LCCT’s new RM160mil wing

According to Malaysia Airports Bhd (MAB) senior general manager (operations) Datuk Azmi Murad, the extension would add 32,000sq m of additional floor space to the existing 28,000sq m available.

“The check-in counters will be increased from 72 to 117 for a smoother passenger flow. The counters usually handle 600 passengers per hour but will soon be able to handle 2,200 passengers an hour,” Azmi told StarMetro.

“The grand total of six baggage carousels will save passengers’ time,” he said.

“With the additional floor space, we will accommodate more retail and F&B outlets, and shower and surau facilities,” Azmi said.

The expansion was implemented following the tremendous increase in passenger load at the LCCT soon after its opening in 2006.

Busy during off-peak too: The Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Sepang was built for 15 million passengers initially but handles around 30,000 passengers daily with a 30% increase during holidays

By last year, the LCCT was operating beyond its originally planned capacity of 15 million passengers a year.

Azmi said the new wing could help cope with the 34% growth because once it was fully operational in March next year, the extended terminal could serve 30 million passengers a year.

Besides the AirAsia domestic flights and the AirAsia X international services to Thailand, Indonesia and Australia, the LCCT also caters for the Cebu Pacific Airways of the Philippines and the Tiger Airways of Singapore.

“We handle 30,000 passengers daily on regular days but during festivals and school holidays, there is an increase of 30% in passenger load. With the new wing, we can cater for more airlines,” Azmi said.

AirAsia X, meanwhile, is scheduled to start operating the London Stansted-Kuala Lumpur route from the LCCT in March next year.

According to LCCT-KLIA manager Raghbir Singh, measures taken to cope with the surge in travellers during peak seasons include extending the waiting area at the present terminal.

“By taking up the service road previously used by taxis, we have a 3,000sq m frontage for a bigger waiting area with 600 seats,” Raghbir said.

According to Azmi, to ease congestion at the present departure hall, passengers are only allowed to check in once their respective counters are opened. The others have to wait at the seating area.

As for public transport, eight bus companies link the LCCT to Kuala Lumpur, Klang, Shah Alam, Seremban, Malacca, Ipoh and Genting. There are also ample taxi services.

At present, the MAB is toying with the idea of a mechanical carpark because parking bays will soon be limited once the new wing is fully open.

With air fares increasingly becoming cheaper and competitive, resulting in the healthy increase in passenger load, Azmi does not discount the possibility of his company building a permanent and larger LCCT.

“Our holding company Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad (MAHB) owns 100sq km of land in Sepang. So we have enough space for a permanent terminal.

“We have a few locations in mind,” he said.

He also said if AirAsia did succeed in building its own low-cost carrier terminal, the present LCCT could be converted into a cargo warehouse or for other purposes.

Brands make a difference

BRANDS make a difference, and raising the standard of brands was the main focus at the Global Brand Forum (GBF) conference organised by Media Prima last week.

Fernandes with the Global Brand
Forum’s Malaysian Brand Icon Award

With the current economic turmoil, it was timely for marketers, media representatives and CEOs and numerous conglomerates to get tips from renowned figures in the industry to push their brands to greater heights.

AirAsia group CEO Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes advised those present at the forum to leverage on media coverage after they have established their brand and made it unique.

"Now is not the time to cut down on advertising as it is the best way to build a brand and stay ahead of competitors," he said.

"AirAsia has seen growth on advertising expenditure (adex) and we will continue to increase our adex by 15% to 20% next year."

He said apart from creating innovative product offerings, AirAsia’s other marketing efforts included collaborating with leading brands such Manchester United and Amazing Race to establish a symbolic relationship and obtain brand exposure.

Citing other efforts, Fernandes said that "free" seats giveaway campaigns are always a hit.

When AirAsia organised the Love Bali campaign with Media Prima’s TV3 after the terrorist attacks, "we wanted to make a difference".

"We wanted to help by flying people over to lend their support as well as to boost the economy. The Bali campaign offered around 12,000 free seats and within an hour, all seats were sold out," he said.

At the event, Fernandes was presented with the Global Brand Forum’s Malaysian Brand Icon Award 2008 which recognises an individual and not the company, for amazing vision, inspiring the public and for efforts in reinventing a category.

Earlier, former Procter & Gamble chief marketing officer Jim Stengel said to create a global brand, one has to be accustomed to change by re-evaluating brand value and innovating one’s brand from within the company and only then to consumers.

"The brand must have a clear representation and how it can help improve consumers’ lives," he said, pointing out Google and Nike as examples.

"Google is universally accessible by providing useful information while Nike’s idea was to lead the company via a leadership position in athletics – ‘If you have a body, you’re an athlete’."

Other speakers who attended the forum were Shanghai Tang Hongkong creative director Joanne Ooi and Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, who also shared the same sentiments as the first two speakers – brands need to be consumer-centric, innovative and unique, which are achievable via various marketing and advertising efforts which is crucial, especially with the economic crisis.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Your 10 questions

This column takes readers’ 10 questions to interesting people in the public eye. This week interviewee is Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes CEO, AirAsia Bhd.

As the founder of the budget airline and the man who has revolutionised the country’s airline sector, he is easily one of the most written about CEOs in the country. Interestingly enough, readers still have plenty to ask him. Fernandes takes time to answer some of them.

1 Who is behind your success and what is your philosophy in life? – Anne Athi, Penang

Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes

My father and mother. I believe in the unbelievable, dream the impossible and never take no for an answer.

2 You are such an inspiring and positive person. You are featured in nearly every magazine, but how come you don’t talk about your personal life? For instance, are you married with children? – Doris Ong, clinic nurse, Ipoh

It’s a rule I have with my family and I do not intend to change it. Business is business, personal life is separate.

3AirAsia is now one of the co-sponsors for F1 team AT&T Williams. As AirAsia is a budget carrier and is all about low frills and low cost, does it fit into AirAsia’s strategy to sponsor such a team? – Shane Lai, businessman, PJ

The purpose to sponsor fitted nicely with our strategy especially with AirAsia X’s route map. The F1 is held in some destinations that AirAsia X flies to or will be flying in the future. We would not have sold 25,000 tickets to London if not for the marketing and branding. I also motivate my staff to have high quality and efficiency like the F1 team.

4 How do you see 2009 affecting your business and what are your strategies to overcome this and the competition with Malaysia Airlines? – Lim Meng Siang, investment banker, KL

MAS is obsessed with what AirAsia is doing. They really should be focusing on their market and business, as lack of focus will cause them dearly in years to come. We have moved on. Our battle was about getting rights, we have got them. Our challenge is to continuously keep our fares low and cost down. We are also not looking over our shoulders and believe competition comes from within us.

5 How many flying hours do your pilots have on average and what is their average age? – M.K. Leong, lawyer

Our pilots fly 90 hours. I have to check their age as I do not carry that information in my wallet.

6 How do you intend to reward your shareholders when you keep buying new aircraft at a time when other airlines are scaling down? – Jenny Low, businesswoman

Airline business is not about quarterly profits, it is a cyclical business with ups and downs. AirAsia has a 10-year plan and we are half way through that plan. America’s Southwest Airlines recorded long-term growth and not quarterly profits and they have done very well. To us growth continuity is key in our business and so is growing market share. We have elevated ourselves and have the staying power. AirAsia is a long-term bet.

7 What are the criteria in picking your air stewardess? MAS air stewardess, while also pretty, look more “simple’’ whereas AirAsia stewardess have a more “dangerous’ look. Just curious Marilyn Phoon, former SIA air stewardess, now E & E engineer

I suppose stewardess should not look the same and I cannot tell them how to look. I leave that to them but they have to be comfortable with their appearance to interact and exude a natural feeling. Crews are the stars of the show and individuality is all about being you, and that is all about creativity and innovation.

8 When flights are late and I try to call your customer service to check the flight status, nobody answers or I am put on hold for an unnecessary long period of time. Why is that so?Rose Irene Mohammad Ali, chemical engineer, KL

Certainly our call centres have not kept up with the growth the airline has experienced and that explains the huge number of customer calls. We are urging customers to self-serve. We try to send SMS and keep updating customers. We are now outsourcing our call centre but at the same time we are conscious of our cost as higher cost will lead to higher fares.

9 Why do you not package Tune Hotel and AirAsia tickets together?S.C. Leong, retired auditor

There are some packages but these are two separate companies, although they have common shareholders.

10 Why don’t you sell two-way tickets instead of quoting one-way tickets?Grace Leong, teenager

One way tickets give greater flexibility and efficiency for people to change.