KLIA2: Off to a bumpy start?

An ambitious and expensive project, KLIA2 has opened with much buzz at the start of May. It also appointed a creative agency, M&C Saatchi, to push its marketing campaign for the launch.

However, it appears that its image problems run deeper for now. The RM4 billion dollar project has not taken off without multiple bumps along the way.

First of all, it has come under question for raising the costs to build the terminal. The first estimated cost in 2007 was RM1.7 billion, then increased to RM2 billion in 2009, until its final cost of RM4 billion.

Next, it had to delay its opening five times due to safety issues, amongst other reasons.

Now as it has opened, it is experiencing tension with AirAsia and the airline’s high profile lead Tony Fernandes. The airline filed a complaint over problems in the terminal's management system. Fernandes has since gone online to share his frustrations online via his Twitter account.

He complained about the problems the budget carrier was facing with the check-in machines. His tweets, directed at Malaysia Airport Holding Berhad (MAHB), include:


His other tweet read:


This was not the first time Air Asia has raised its concerns about the new budget terminal.

Prior to this, AirAsia had refused to move in on May 9 as it was concerned about the terminal’s safety-related issues, including depressions on the runways and taxiways.

According to TheRakyatPost, there were recent reports that safety worries had cropped up again at KLIA2 as taxiways and aircraft parking bays were slowly sinking due to rain and impact from the hundreds of aircraft using the new airport.

Does it already have an image problem?

When asked if MAHB is handling all these issues well, managing director of Orchan Consulting Craig Selby told Advertising + Marketing that it was simply a matter of the the public being “sensitised” to matters surrounding aviation right now.

“At this current time, we have the added pressure of the brighter spotlight being on anything associated with the aviation industry, and something that may not have raised eyebrows a year ago is sending alarm bells ringing today,” said Selby.

He feels that issues are already being handled the best way possible, given the situation surrounding the industry at the moment. He sees the issues the terminal facing now as something expected.

“As with any new facility, there will always be teething issues, and whilst everyone always hopes for 100% perfection, we have to realise that this will never be achieved”, he says.

He feels that it is too early to speculate that the brand has been tarnished with all the issues that are surrounding it.

General manager of Zeno Group Malaysia, David Lian says that the key issues to moving the brand forward are transparency and building consumers' trust.

"MAHB needs to demonstrate it is working hard to address issues raised and communicate with as much transparency and honesty as possible," Lian says.

Selby is certain that in order to build its brand and be a better facility than LCCT, it is important that MAHB delivers its promises, aside from continually striving for improvements.