AirAsia's push to rename KLIA2 as LCCT2: Is it really a good idea?

AirAsia has announced plans to launch a campaign to promote budget terminal KLIA2 as Low-Cost Carrier Terminal 2 (LCCT2), reinforcing Kuala Lumpur's position as the leading low-cost gateway to Asia and beyond.

According to AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes, KLIA2 "does not mean anything" as opposed to LCCT2 which is synonymous with low-cost. The flight carrier currently occupies 97% of operations at KLIA2, providing services to 37,000 guests daily, according to figures mentioned by CEO Aireen Omar.

It is urging the Malaysia Airports Holdings (MAHB) to recognise the high volume of traffic brought into KL by AirAsia, KLIA2’s potential as a low-cost hub and changing its mindset to help facilitate the growth of the low-cost model.

"It is a brand that we built up together with Malaysia Airports and it shouldn't go to waste. I urge MAHB to stop denying the fact that it is a low-cost hub," Fernandes added.

Meanwhile CEO Aireen Omar, also added that Bangkok's Don Muaeng airport has overtaken KLIA2 as the world's largest LCC airport as it works closely with their customers to bring in the traffic.

"MAHB needs to adapt the same approach for it to be relevant and gain back that recognition for Malaysia," Aireen said.

MAHB has since responded in a press statement saying KLIA2 is neither an independent airport nor a hub. It is KL International Airport’s (KLIA) second terminal and is a crucial component of the KLIA hub.

MAHB added that although KLIA2 is currently mainly used by low-cost carriers, it is designed to cater to all types of airlines as it supports the overall KLIA capacity. As such, it is crucial to view and position the main KLIA and KLIA2 together as an integrated airport system, instead of taking KLIA2 as an independent low-cost hub.

KLIA2 was opened in 2 May 2014 to serve all low-cost carriers flights. It replaced the former LCCT (Low cost carrier terminal), which ceased operations on 9 May 2014 after the new KLIA2 was built and available to the public.

“Malaysia Airports would like to advise that KLIA2 is the registered name of the terminal under the International Air Transport Association and calling it by any other name would only serve in misleading and causing confusion to the public and passengers,” the press statement read.

In a conversation with A+M, Nick Foley, president of the Southeast Asia and Pacific regions, Landor said  that MAHB should have gone with AirAsia’s suggestion. This is especially so with the neighbouring Changi Airport already being known for its international capabilities.

KLIA needs to build in real difference to its offering and be more relevant to its audience of people traveling on low budgets. I like calling things for what they are – LCCT2 works well.

Foley said that with "a disproportionately high number" of low-cost carriers setting up their base in KL, naming the terminal LCCT2 is definitely something which is fitting as it encapsulates the carriers which frequently pass through it.

“Regardless of what the Malaysian government wants to call its second terminal, consumers are likely to go with LCCT2. Personally, I’m not a big fan of sequels and the naming format of ‘2’ lacks originality.  If it were my decision, terminal one would be KLIA and terminal two would become LCCA (Low Cost Carrier Airport),” Foley added.

Jonathan Bonsey, principal creative and executive officer of The Bonsey Design Partnership, agreed with MAHB’s response on the need to associate KLIA2 with capital airport KLIA, stating that budget travel in Asia is the rule rather than the exception. Hence any airport should include both budget and scheduled carrier operations.

Passengers choose carriers based on cost, schedules and safety records, not the brand name of the terminal from which they operate. And if they did, wouldn’t it be better to have KL in the name to aid comprehension?

While he agrees that KLIA2 has a strong AirAsia presence, the name change might be counter intuitive in MAHB’s efforts in improving its offering to travellers. Naming the terminal LCCT2 might associate KLIA2 with the previous low-cost terminal which provided a less enjoyable experience to travellers.

“Why would AirAsia want to confuse potential passengers, particular those with little knowledge of the country’s name protocols, with a new alphabet soup?” Bonsey questioned.

“Presumably the train service then becomes the KLIALCCT2 Express? Good luck with that!”