Airlines also need to do their part, MAHB tells AirAsia in response to 'horrible' Penang airport tweet

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KUALA LUMPUR (July 29): Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) says local airlines operating out of Penang International Airport (PIA) are also to be blamed for the long queues at the airport.

MAHB senior airport manager for Penang Mohd Nadzim Hashim said apart from the airport operator, airlines also need to do their part in catering to the comfort and convenience of the passengers by ensuring that there are enough airline staff on the ground to facilitate the check-in process.

"Not only that, they must also ensure that their facilities such as self-check-in kiosks and self-baggage drop are in operation all the time as facilities such as these will help reduce the long queues at the counters," he said in a statement today.

"Checks in the last two days have shown that at least two of the self-check-in kiosks provided by the airlines are not operational and in fact, some self-baggage drop counters have also been used as manual counters due to lack of staff to guide passengers on how to use the self-baggage drop facility," he added.

Nadzim was responding to AirAsia Group Bhd group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes' tweet on PIA last Friday, which remarked that PIA was "horrible" and the "queues are horrible as (the) airport (is) poorly designed". Fernandes also said he felt sorry for the Penang state government that despite having done a good job on tourism, it could not expand the airport.

Fernandes' remarks were supported by a travel advisory issued by AirAsia, which had advised its passengers departing the PIA to leave early due to "increased airport congestion".

Nadzim said there are currently sufficient facilities including ample check-in counters provided by the airport operator at PIA.

He pointed out that PIA has a total of 61 check-in counters and more than half of them are dedicated to the local airlines operating there.

"However, our daily observation shows that not all are manned, even during the daily peak period between 11am and 1pm. Usually only about 70% is being utilised due to insufficient manpower resources by the airlines. No doubt, this can lead to long queues at the airport," he added.

MAHB, which operates 39 airports in the country, is now awaiting approval from the Penang Island City Council to undertake and fund the expansion of PIA as proposed in the Malaysian Aviation Commission's regulated asset base framework.

"Construction work is expected to start in the first quarter of 2020 and the first phase of the expansion up to a capacity of 12 million passengers per year will take three years to complete," said MAHB.

At 4.14pm, MAHB shares fell 11 sen or 1.3% at RM8.36, with 1.59 million shares done, bringing a market capitalisation of RM13.89 billion.

See also: Penang Airport expansion a challenge for MAHB, federal govt