KOTA KINABALU (July 19): AirAsia Group Bhd is confident that the government will consider its proposal to return its operation to Terminal 2 of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA), which the low-cost airline operator reluctantly left about two years ago.
Group Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said if the airline was allowed to return to Terminal 2 from the present Terminal 1, the operations at Terminal 2 could begin within the next six months or possibly three months.
"Terminal 2 is very critical in the development of Sabah tourism. I think all flights that we put on is due to Terminal 2. We have not been able to grow too much since Terminal 2 was closed. So we have made a representation to the Ministry of Tourism and Culture and Ministry of Transport, and today we came to the Sabah Chief Minister (Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal) about reopening Terminal 2.
"We believe with Terminal 2, we can continue the growth that we had before, at about 26% (compound annual). We think we can, within short term, bring five million tourists to Sabah.
"The big different is that now AirAsia X has much more confidence in Sabah...and we want to start flying from Kota Kinabalu (KK)-India, KK to northern part of Asia (like) China, Japan, and Korea, and also to Australia (especially) Melbourne, Sydney and Perth," he said to reporters at KKIA here today.
Earlier, Fernandes made a courtesy call on Mohd Shafie at the Chief Minister’s office.
Fernandes said Mohd Shafie “seems very open to it (proposal)".
Besides discussing AirAsia's proposal to return to Terminal 2, the other matters discussed with the Chief Minister who is also the State Finance Minister, was about direct flights from various destinations to Sandakan and Tawau.
AirAsia ceased operations in Terminal 2 effective Dec 1, 2015, ending the airline group’s operations at the terminal for the past 12 years. The move to Terminal 1 was in line with a directive made by the then Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.
According to Fernandes, AirAsia would spend about RM20 million to reopen operations at Terminal 2 to make it viable for five million passengers a year, as well as creating about 30,000 jobs for local Sabahans.
"So we hoped that our proposal will be accepted," he said, adding he also told Mohd Shafie how the airline could play a role in helping Sabah in capital development such as in data sciences and data engineering fields.
Lauding Sabah's development progress, Fernandes also said that the state had huge potential to be a big hub in between Australia and North Asia, akin to Dubai where many people transited there before proceeding to Europe.
Additionally, he said AirAsia could also provide good connectivity that would be very helpful in increasing business and investment in the state.
On Sabah's plan to build a new airport, Fernandes said he hoped the new airport would include a low-cost terminal to meet the fast growing demand for the low-cost aviation services in ASEAN and Asia compared with premium airline services.