(KLIA, Monday ): I have returned from Sibu with DAP National Organising Secretary and MP for Cheras, Tan Kok Wai on the flight MH 2711, which was scheduled to leave Sibu at 0910 hours and to arrive at 1105 hours. Yesterday, I took the direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Sibu on MH 2714 scheduled to leave KLIA at 1640 hours and to arrive at 1840 hours. Kok Wai took an earlier flight yesterday via Kuching, taking the MH 2564 which was scheduled to leave KLIA at 1320 hours, arrive in Kuching at 1505 hours, and then to go to Sibu on MH 2310 scheduled to leave Kuching at 1610 hours and to arrive in Sibu at 1655 hours.
Both of us could have left together, but we decided to take different flights to buy insurance in case one of us could not arrive in Sibu for a meeting of Sarawak DAP branch committee members in Sibu last night - which is a general reflection of the lack of public confidence in the KLIA.
This is the first time I have used the KLIA after I walked out of the new international airport on June 30, the first day of operation, in protest at the total chaos and mess at the KLIA which transformed it from an international pride into an international shame.
I am calling this media conference to give my experiences and impressions of the KLIA on the seventh day of operations of the "airport of the next century", especially after the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik had assured the country and the world on Friday that the KLIA was operating 85 per cent of capacity and on Saturday that KLIA was 100 per cent operational capacity.
Yesterday, while I was walking to the depature hall A7, I met several fuming passengers who asked me whether I agreed that the airport was "just not ready for opening", to which, I fully concurred! Generally the consensus of all Malaysians who have to use the KLIA is: "What a beauty - but what a mess!" As a result, everybody is trying to avoid having to use the KLIA if possible, until it could operate with normal efficiency!
I want firstly to rebut in the strongest terms possible the daily Public Relations exercise of the Transport Minister that the KLIA was now operating smoothly. I would seriously suggest that Cabinet Ministers should use the KLIA as ordinary travellers without VIP treatment for the next one month for them to realise the inconvenience and hardships suffered by the travelling public and which will make Liong Sik stop talking nonsenese about the KLIA working at 100 per cent operational capacity.
The second important point I want to make is to rebut the advertising blurb that the KLIA, despite its impressive size and the state-of-the-art facilities is "user-friendly, providing passengers with the ultimate in convenience and efficiency".
This is utter bunkum! The KLIA is very user-unfriendly, sacrificing the convenience of the travelling public to futuristic concepts like "airport in the forest, forest in the airport"!
Let me zero in on my experiences of the KLIA yesterday and today to illustrate why the KLIA is very user-unfriendly.
Yesterday, my flight to Sibu was delayed by half an hour, which was the same case with Kok Wai’s flight to Kuching.
My first experience in going into the departure lounges is to find that the KLIA’s boast that "passengers can move easily at the KLIA via hi-tech glass lifts, escalators and walkways" is not borne out by the truth.
There are altogether 22 departure halls for domestic flights, A1-11 and B1 - 11, which are very user-unfriendly, as the walkways are broken up into 22 sections, compelling the travellers to walk long distances, which would be most incovenient and even hard for those with heavy hand-luggages or for the sick and elderly. The Subang International Airport design is definitely more user-friendly, as the walkways cover three or four departure halls and did not impose so much inconvenience on the travellers.
Furthermore, many of the walkways in the domestic departure sections were not operating. Neither was the flight information system, as all the monitors in the departure halls continue to be blank!
Yesterday, I encountered something which I had never experienced in my over 35 years of flying - one of the two toilets of the flight MH 2714 was out of order! Nonetheless the flight had to take off, or it might have been delayed by one or two days to get the economy class toilet repaired with the monumental chaos and mess at the KLIA!
The flight back from Sibu to Kuala Lumpur this morning was very smooth and it in fact landed at the KLIA ahead of the scheduled time by five minutes. The aerobridge operated without any hitches. I do not know whether this had anything to do with the fact that Kok Wai and I were on the flight but I congratulate MAS and KLIA for a very smooth flight and disembarkation.
However, we still found many flaws at the KLIA which should not be there at all if KLIA operates with minimal efficiency and capacity.
On disembarkation at the KLIA, Kok Wai got a shock of his life when he went into the ladies’ toilet - because of misleading signages at the departure lounge. Another "keluar" signage was also very misleading, as it pointed to the emergency exit!
Although Liong Sik said that there is 100% operational capacity, this is far from the truth. Until yesterday, passengers have to wait from one to two hours for their baggage. On our Sibu-Kuala Lumpur flight was a passenger who flew specially to KLIA, spending some RM800 in the two-way journey, just to locate the baggage of his daughter who returned to London yesterday but without her baggage!
The baggage section stank with rotting meat and seafood and were strewn with numerous baggages from various flights from different destinations in the world, and they were hopelessly mixed up!
The KLIA, despite its seventh day of operation, is a sorry and disgraceful mess. As a patriotic Malaysian, I hope that the new Hong Kong International Airport would be a terrible chaos and mess on its first day of operation today like the KLIA on June 30 so that Malaysians can hold their heads high and tell the world that such chaos and mess is the ordinary order of things for the first day of operations of all international airports!
If the new Hong Kong International Airport operates efficiently on its first day of operations today, then Malaysians must hang their heads in shame!
Finally, I call on the authorities to look after the welfare of Malaysians who have to work at the KLIA - whether government servants or employees in the private sector. There are about 1,000 public sector employees at the KLIA, some 300 customs, 300 immigration and 500 airport security personnel.
They face problems of the high costs of food and car parking. I understand that MAS provides one week of free food, ending today, and MAS employees have to pay for their food at the MAS canteen. In the last few days, I am told that MAS workers at the Cargo Complex have been living on Maggie mee.
However, the MAS canteen is not open to government servants whether from Immigration, Customs or Airport Security services.
These government servants cannot get their food from the KLIA restaurants which are highly exorbitant, where nasi lemak costs RM10.50, drinks RM4.50 and McDonald treble the ordinary prices.
I call on Liong Sik to take immediate steps to allow the government servants to use the MAS canteen until a government canteen at the KLIA could be established.
Liong Sik should also resolve the problem faced by the government servants arising from the exorbitant parking costs, which is RM63 a month for open car park with RM80 deposit. At the Subang International Airport, government servants have to pay only RM20 for six months!
In fact, I would call on the Minister for Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs, Datuk Megat Junid Megat Ayob to personally visit the KLIA to check on the exorbitant prices and reduce them to fair levels.