Sunday, December 4, 2011

Malaysia Airports MD mum on sacking rumour

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) managing director Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad has refused to respond to speculation that he could be sacked from his post as early as this evening.

“No comment,” he told The Malaysian Insider via text message when contacted today.

Speculation is rife Bashir (picture) will be removed by Khazanah Nasional Bhd following his increasingly acrimonious dispute with AirAsia boss Tan Sri Tony Fernandes over a recent airport tax hike and the inflated cost of the KLIA2 terminal.

The state investment arm holds a 20.5 per cent stake in MAHB and is the airport operator’s largest shareholder.

Popular blog Another Brick In The Wall said Khazanah may take the easy way out and fire Bashir to please Fernandes and replace him with former NSTP chief executive Datuk Syed Feisal Albar.

“‘Syed Feisal already has the job,’ the informer said. This seemed contrary to our sources in Prime Minister’s Office that there will be no such thing,” it said in a posting today.

No-frills airline AirAsia and MAHB are at loggerheads over the latest airport tax hike and the cost of the new KLIA2 low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT), which has nearly doubled to RM3.9 billion from the original estimate in 2009.

KLIA2, originally conceived as a terminal for low-cost carriers, grew in scope after MAHB decided to make the terminal a back-up for the main terminal.

The airport operator also decided to bring forward capital expenditure in an attempt to future-proof the terminal — it now boasts a runway capable of handling Airbus A380s and also a higher capacity of 45 million passengers per annum, three times that of the present LCCT.

MAHB said today on its website that it increased the terminal’s capacity on AirAsia’s request, in line with the airline’s own projections that some 45 million passengers will use KLIA2 by 2020.

It also made a popular decision to install aerobridges, a decision which earned the ire of AirAsia which has been against the concept as it would mean longer aircraft turnaround times and additional charges, but MAHB insists any additional cost to passengers will be negligible.

Fernandes, who built his empire by focusing on cost-cutting measures, said he feared that the ballooning price tag of KLIA2 would translate to higher airport taxes and fees in future despite several assurances from MAHB that it would not.

When it opens for business in April 2013 after a 17-month delay, KLIA2 will feature amenities that will rival those of most full-featured airports including a huge shopping mall, premium and VIP lounges, hotels and Asia’s first airport skybridge measuring about 300 metres.