KUALA LUMPUR: Senai International Airport is set to become a regional hub within the next 10 years, driven by the rising number of lowcost carriers (LCCs) in Asia Pacific as well as the development of Iskandar Malaysia in Johor.
Dubbed the jewel of Iskandar and strategically located within a four-hour flight radius to most Asean countries, the airport has a lot to offer to various airlines and the passengers in terms of air and land space.
At the same time, Senai airport has the means to cater to LCCs' business model, thanks to the air traffic there, which is not as congested as Singapore's Changi International Airport.
Senai Airport Terminal Services Sdn Bhd deputy chief executive Safuan Basir said aviation industry growth in the next couple of years will be more prominent in the Asia-Pacific region, driven mostly by LCCs.
He said part of the LCCs' business model is to keep the operation cost low and utilise the aircraft as much as possible - with fast turnaround. "Many airports like Changi are already congested. If an LCC wants to land there, it must hover over the airport for some time. This requires more money as more fuel is burnt.
"This is where Senai airport comes in, as we are able to offer the value proposition to airlines, particularly LCCs,"
Safuan told Business Times last week. He added that the Asean Open Skies Policy, which will take effect next year, will better position Senai airport as a regional hub due to its free air and land space.
Senai Airport Terminal is managing and operating Senai Airport after acquiring it from Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) in 2003. Airlines currently flying to and from the airport are MAS, Firefly, AirAsia and Malindo Air.
Safuan said there are plans to attract foreign airlines to Senai airport, particularly those from Asean, in order to expand the airport's flight connectivity. However, he said it is too early to say whether the airport will ink any agreement with foreign airlines as the decision will have to involve the Department of Civil Aviation and the governments.
"Most of the airlines we talk to are LCCs. They do look forward to what we can offer," he said.
Currently, the airport's connectivity includes domestic destinations and some Indonesian cities (Pekan Baru, Jakarta, Bandung and Surabaya). This year, Safuan said the plan is to expand connectivity from Senai airport to Thailand, Indochina and south China.
"We want to grow international traffic. It was a dark period in 2008/2009 when there were no international flights from Senai airport at all."