(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): Kuala Lumpur International Airport Bhd, Malaysia Airports Bhd and MAS should collectively make ex gratia payments to all passengers who suffered delays, inconvenience, hardships and losses in the first two days of operation of KLIA because of the failures of the system and capability of KLIA.
Nothing could undo the disgraceful mess and chaos at the KLIA, especially on the first day of operations on Tuesday, 30th June 1998, when planes were kept in a holding pattern circling KLIA for up to an hour before being allowed to land, passengers were locked in the aircraft for up to three hours because of breakdown of the aerobridge and aircraft bay allocation systems, delays of up to five hours to wait for the luggage, queues of up to 30 minutes just to buy a ticket for a taxi and queues of over two hours to get a taxi!
All this because the opening and official operations of the KLIA was rushed when it was not yet ready, just to score the cheap and irrelevant point of being one week ahead of the official opening and operations of the new Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hong Kong.
As a result, the RM700 million Total Airport Management System (TAMS), the first of its kind in the world and to be the brain and darling of the airport of the next century, ended up as a Total Airport Mess System.
For the past year, Malaysians have been told that the KLIA will not only have the state-of-the-art TAMS, which will integrate 41 systems with 1,600 interfaces some of which are among the most sophisticated in the world - including the flight information display system (FIDS), the baggage information display system (BIDS), parking and ground allocation system, passenger check-in system, air traffic management system, track transit system, electronic commerce system and gate allocation system.
As far back as July 1997, Liong Sik boasted that the KLIA will have the most sophisticated baggage handling system in the world, the Passenger and Baggage Reconciliation System (PBRS), which could not only detect any passengers who fail to board their flights, but also pin-point a passenger’s luggage and retrieve it within seconds.
Liong Sik had said then: "The baggage handling system is the most sophisticated system in the world".
On the first day of operations of the KLIA, the Baggage Handling System (BHS) touted to the the world’s fastest and most sophisticated, was not only the worst in the world, but was responsible for causing all the 41 computer systems integrated to TAMS to crash, paralysing the airport of the next century even more this century has ended!
On Tuesday, there was such a monumental mix-up of the thousands of baggages coming from different parts of the world, that the whole baggage mess had not been sorted out yet. Passengers report mountains of baggages with airport workers trying to sort them out manually one piece at a time!
The breakdown of the most sophisticated baggage handling system in the world is inexcusable and unforgivable as the Transport Minister had in January this year expressed satisfaction with the way the baggage-handling system was running, claiming that the tests revealed a 98.7 per cent success rate, and that 1.3 per cent failure rate was considered normal. Can Liong Sik explain why, then, there was a 100 per cent failure rate of the baggage-handling system on Tuesday, with the system not fully restored yesterday?
The KLIA authorites have in the past few months repeatedly given assurances that TAMS would be ready for operation, as factory acceptance testings began in January 1997, that it had successfuly gone through a five-level test as well as advanced integrated trials.
The idea to instal TAMS at KLIA was mooted by Anglo-Japanese Airport Consultant (AJAC) five years ago and since then its implementation was taken over by Malaysian-Japanese Airport Consultant (MJAC) team comprising Sapura-Tomen and Harris. The nerve centre for TAMS is the Airport Operation Centre (AOC) supported by a crisis control centre, network management centre, security operation centre, engineering operation centre and others.
The head of TAMS, Umar Bustamam was specifically asked by the press only two weeks ago what would happen to KLIA if TAMS suffers a breakdown. Umar said daily operation at the airport will not be affected but the service will be less efficient as it will be done manually.
Surely, there is something very wrong when TAMS crashes on the very first day of operation of KLIA, and the chaos and mess on that day shows that Umar had been wrong when he said that "daily operation at the airport will not be affected but the service will be less efficient as it will be done manually".
Who is going to bear responsibility for the breakdown of TAMS on Tuesday, or this is another case of a man-made catastrophe without anyone being held responsible?
What concern all Malaysians is that what happened at the KLIA last Tuesday could be a regular occurrence as all its needs for TAMS to crash and plunge KLIA into a Total Airport Mess System is for anyone of the 41 systems integrated to TAMS to fail and down TAMS.
Malaysians are entitled to clear answers as to what contingency plans have been formulated by the government and the relevant authorities in the event of TAMS regularly crashing down.
Asked if the measures which had been taken will guarantee problem-free operations of the KLIA, Liong Sik said yesterday: "Only God can guarantee".
Liong Sik cannot blame God for the collapse of TAMS. There has clearly been very slip-shod management and decision-making causing the disgraceful and shameful first day of the KLIA. Those who have been involved extensively in project are astounded by the collapse of TAMS on the very first day of operation of KLIA, as there should have been extensive real-world testing before even dreaming of a full implementation. This obviously was not done well in KLIA’s case, as too many things failed which were unconnected to TAMS, examples being the autopay car park payment, trunk phone, pabx or switch handling systems which are separate from TAMS.