Senai International Airport is positioning its Senai Business Aviation Terminal (SBAT), which will be launched soon, as Malaysia’s busiest private jet terminal.
The Johor-based airport’s CEO, Mohd Rani Hisham Samsudin, said the potential for business is there because there are more than 150 private jet owners in Malaysia but their aircraft are parked overseas, typically in Thailand and Indonesia.
“We want to capture the market and be a leader in that. We are working very hard,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in a recent interview.
The dedicated VIP terminal building for business jets is scheduled to be launched by mid-March, which will offer services for this category of fliers.
“We are talking to a few players and also some other operators (Singapore and Subang) for business networking,” Mohd Rani said.
"Even if the jets don't fly, we can charge the owners for parking. For now, over the weekends, the airport has received business jet clients who fly in to dine in the city and Singapore.
“Currently, we have the customers, but not the facilities. We need to serve food, handling and such so we can also impose terminal charges.
“It is going to be a one-stop centre for them. Once we are in that business, we can add value to it.”
The SBAT is designed for high business profile companies and individuals connected to the Iskandar Malaysia development.
Facilities will include business lounge, in-house Customs, Immigration and Quarantine centre, crew lounge and briefing room, conferenceroom, VIP room and other basic facilities. Aside from SBAT, Senai Airport has set aside RM30 million for capital expenditure to increase efficiency at the airport.
“We need to look into how we can operate in a more efficient manner in terms of volume of passengers and aircraft,” he said.
Senai Airport is the only commercial international airport in Malaysia not operated by Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB).
Last year, the airport handled 2.3 million passengers and recorded passenger service charges revenue of RM18.6 million.
The company is optimistic that by hitting its passenger volume target of 2.7 million in 2015, exceeding its maximum capacity of 2.5 million passengers, they will move up to 4th position from the current 7th in the country by passenger count.
It hopes to gain RM22.8 million in passenger service charges this year.
The airport has registered a cumulative annual growth rate of 6.53% from 2010, when it only registered 1.2 million passengers.
Mohd Rani attributed the exponential growth to the heightened number of flights and frequency, as well as the growing connectivity.
The airport will soon cater for flights from South China and India as a move to increase international destinations to heighten connectivity and draw more passengers to the airport. The maiden flights, scheduled and chartered, are scheduled to commence as early as June or July this year.
Currently, there are direct flights on a chartered-flight basis to Korea (Incheon) via Asiana Airlines, which commenced in December 2014.
To date, the airport caters largely for domestic flights with the exception of a few international destinations — Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam) and Indonesia’s Jakarta, Lombok, Surabaya, Bandung and Jogjakarta.
Mohd Rani said the company wants to engage airlines and those promoting Johor as a tourism destination, in order to make Senai International Airport their direct destination.
“We no longer can function like before where we provide the facilities and wait for passengers to use our facilities. We need to try to create value by working with local authorities, travel agents, tourism associations and hoteliers more.
“With the likes of Legoland Malaysia, Hello Kitty, Johor Premium Outlet and Nusajaya, we are now able to promote Johor as an affordable direct destination and encourage tourists to make daytrips into Singapore for shopping and such instead,” he said.
“If it is just local flights, the volume may be limited. Also, the airport can earn more from passengers in terms of service charge for international travel,” he added.