Cheap renewable energy, digital economy beckons to AirAsia to set up LCT in Kuching

Abang Johari (second left) strikes a gong to mark the beginning of the Sarawak Dialogue 2018, while Tony (second right), Sarawak Dialogue 2018 organising chairman Adrain Jerome (third left) and other state dignitaries look on.

KUCHING, Feb 26: Sarawak’s investments in renewable energy through its hydroelectricity dams is beginning to pay off as this has become a focal point for AirAsia’s plan to set up a low-cost terminal (LCT) here.

AirAsia Group CEO Tan Sri Tony Fernandes said having cheap renewable energy would mean that the running cost of LCT could be reduced further, and this would in turn benefit the airline’s customers and passengers by means of cheaper fares.

“For our LCT here in Kuching, the plan is on the basis that much of it would run on renewable energy so we can run it much more efficiently than most airports. The attraction of Sarawak for us is the low cost — the ability to drive cost down and when operating a terminal.

“Among the biggest cost in operating an LCT is water usage and power. If we can reduce the cost of airport operations then we can put that cost (saving) over to the passengers,” he told a press conference after the opening ceremony of Sarawak Dialogue 2018 at a hotel here this morning.

When asked on the progress of the plan, Tony said AirAsia was working towards it, and already had a design in mind.

“Coupled with what the state is doing (renewable energy and digital economy), having an LCT would enable us to reduce fares here and do routes that we never thought we could do before.

“So we are just waiting as we are ready and committed,” he said.

Tony also pointed out that Kuching is strategically located in the region, between the southern region especially Australia and New Zealand, and north Asia, hence setting up a hub and an LCT in Kuching is a viable idea.

“Kuching is located at a brilliant point between north Asia and the southern part of this region. So passengers from Australia for instance, can stop in Kuching before flying to China, and vice versa. Passengers from Japan also can stop in Sarawak before going down to Australia and vice versa.

“We think it’s a great location,” he said.

Abang Johari (centre) speaks at a press conference while Tony (left), Sarawak Dialogue 2018 organising chairman Adrain Jerome (second left) and other state dignitaries look on.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said as long as AirAsia agrees to the terms set by the state government, the state government would be more than willing to collaborate with AirAsia.

“If it benefits the state, of course we have interest to collaborate with the private sector,” he said.

Asked on the time frame, Abang Johari said both the state government and AirAsia were still in the midst of discussions to come out with a win-win formula.

“To be fair, we are still discussing for a win-win situation between AirAsia and Sarawak, because Tony wanted Kuching to be a hub and he has his planes.

“We (Sarawak) want to make sure everyone gains from this. When more tourists come in, there will be more attractions in Sarawak. Therefore our food, hotel and cottage industries among others will benefit. Not only Kuching, other places of attraction in Sarawak will also benefit.

“That is all the more reason also we must get our light railway train (LRT) project up and running,” he said. — DayakDaily