DAP calls for a new Transport Minister to ensure that the RM9 billion KLIA stop being an eternal national nightmare and start being the “airport of the century”
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Saturday): In its four-and-a-half years of operation, the RM9 billion Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) has been more of a national nightmare than a national dream.
Touted as the “airport of the next century”, the KLIA opened in mid-1998 in unbelievable mess and chaos, with planes kept in a holding pattern circling KLIA for up to an hour before being allowed to land; passengers 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!
A week after the world-notorious KLIA chaos, Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Ling Liong Sik assured Malaysians that KLIA was operating at 100% capacity – and it is only now that Malaysians fully understand the meaning of Liong Sik’s assurance, i.e. with all the heartaches, breakdowns and sheer incompetence of a Malaysian public facility though this one cost the taxpayers RM9 billion!
Two days ago, Liong Sik said a technical committee had been formed to look into the luggage handling system at the KLIA to rectify and improve the system, after its most recent breakdown last Sunday which forced 12 domestic and international flights to be rescheduled. This was the second major breakdown last month alone, as a similar incident on Dec. 4 forced the rescheduling of seven domestic and international flights and caused hours of delay for passengers waiting to retrieve their luggage.
Liong Sik did not bat any eyelid when he said that the main task of the technical team was to find ways to correct the design of the belting system that transports baggage from the satellite area to the main arrival and departure lounges, declaring what must qualify as the “joke of the year”:
“The ministry is serious about maintaining the KLIA’s image because a good airport must have an efficient overall system”
With such a statement, Liong Sik had also given his blessing to the complacent attitude of the Malaysia Airports Bhd. operations manager Rahim who made the following shockingly unprofessional comment after the breakdown of the luggage handling system on Sunday: “These kind of glitches are unavoidable, especially during the weekends when the luggage flow is heavy.”
Liong Sik seems to have forgotten that as far back as July 1997, he had promised Malaysians that 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.
Another world’s first in KLIA was the RM700 million state-of-the-art Total Airport Management System (TAMS), integrating 41 systems with 1,600 interfaces some of which are also touted as 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.
But the TAMS proved to be a Total Airport Mess System when it first went into operation, while the “most sophisticated baggage handling system in the world” is only for its pricing but not functionality as it had never performed as promised!
KLIA is now in the new century but it has not proved to be the “airport of the next century”, as in less than five years, its aerotrains are getting jammed! KLIA cannot be suffering from “teething problems” but is it already afflicted with “aging problems” in a fantastically short time before it could become the “airport of the century”?
Could someone in the Transport Ministry explain how the world’s “most sophisticated baggage handling system” became the world’s “most sophisticated baggage handling system which is breakdown-prone”, and who should pay for such a lousy buy for the KLIA?
The parliamentary secretary to the Ministry to the Transport Ministry, Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai said after Sunday’s breakdown that the ministry wanted to upgrade the entire handling system, including setting guidelines on packing and speeding the handling system. Is this another excuse for more expenditures, another example of throwing good money after bad?
Malaysians have enough of excuses for sheer incompetence and ineptitude and DAP calls for a new Transport Minister to ensure that the RM9 billion KLIA stop being an eternal national nightmare and start being a national dream and the “airport of the century” before it becomes the “airport museum of the century”.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman