(Petaling Jaya, Friday): I find the flippant and complacent atittude of the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik, about the Kuala Lumpur International Airport chaos and mess most shocking and unbelievable.
He said yesterday that the situation at the KLIA was "much, much better than before", which is a meaningless statement, for it would be impossible for the airport situation to be worse than on the first day of operation of the KLIA on June 30, 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!
Liong Sik said the baggage situation had improved "tremendously" with the longest average waiting time lasting 35 minutes and the shortest about 12 minutes. This is another playing with words to try to minimise the chaos and mess at the KLIA.
Liong Sik would be making a meaningful announcement if he had said that the longest waiting time for any passenger to wait for his baggage is 35 minutes, as the travelling public are not interested in "longest average waiting time", but in the longest waiting time they might be subjected in order to retrieve their baggage.
What was the position yesterday of baggage handling system at the KLIA - touted as the most sophisticated and fastest system in the world? There were passengers who have still to wait for over two hours for their luggage - can this be accepted as satisfactory by the Transport Minister?
There are not only mountains of baggages at the KLIA from all destinations of the world completely mixed up, baggages are also being sent to different parts of the world which are wrong destinations.
A Sin Chew Jit Poh reporter had written of her own experiences when trying to take MH261 bound for Singapore on Wednesday, July 1, 1998. The departure time was 8 p.m but she arrived at the KLIA at 5.45 p.m. for the check-in as many had done these past few days, in anticipation of a chaotic and messy airport situation. She was quite lost, as there was no flight information display on the monitors and there was no way to find out the time for departure or the gate to be used.
Together with other passengers, she had to trudge to three different departure gates, and her flight did not finally take off until 1.30 a.m. - five hours from the scheduled time of departure, and spending a total of eight long hours at the KLIA! There was no food or refreshments for the passengers. What is revealing is that she found that it was not only the ordinary passengers who were totally lost, even MAS crew, stewards and stewadesss were lost, as they could not find the planes they had been assigned to!
But their ordeal was not over yet. When MH261 arrived in Singapore and the tired passengers went to collect their luggage at the Singapore Changi Airport, they found MAS personnel collecting all the luggage coming out of the carousel, for MH261 had transported a wrong set of luggage meant for another flight to another foreign destination!
The chaos and mess of KLIA is therefore not confined inside the country, but even exported overseas!
Yesterday, flight delays of four to five hours were still commonplace ordeals at the KLIA, while flight information display on the monitors at KLIA remained a mystery, with the public completely at a loss as to whether certain flights had arrived, were delayed or cancelled - getting no help from the information desks whatsoever as they were equally in the dark!
The KLIA chaos and mess, however, are not confined to the passenger complex as the cargo complex are in an equal chaos since the first day of operations on Tuesday.
As reported in the press, cargo due to leave or which arrived on Tuesday did not see the light of day, and for tonnes of chicks - it was the end for them.
Freight forwarders dealing with livestock, vegetables and fruits said their shipments could not be located in the past three days.
This is a posting on the internet on the terrible state of things at the cargo complex yesterday:
"was at the cargo side today...utter chaos...consignment of fresh fish from the philippines, dripping fish juices, next to some computer stuff...live chicks in little boxes making a din in a corner...even went on the tarmac (airside!) trying to find my stuff...the workers just said, resignedly, the airport should be closed!"
Has Liong Sik visited the cargo complex and given directives to straighten out the chaos and mess there? Will the authorities concerned compensate all those who have suffered losses as a result of the unpreparedness of the KLIA to start commercial operations on June 30?
The Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Ling Liong Sik, his Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretary should spend full-time at the KLIA to help resolve the publicís problems until the KLIA can operate smoothly. In fact, they should set up office at the KLIA to be available 24 hours a day - with the Minister, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretary taking turns to man the office - to carry out the directive of the Prime Minister to all Cabinet Ministers to be hands-on Ministers who are at the ground to resolve the peopleís problems.