Aside from firing their AVA chatbot and replacing it with Bo, their AI-powered avatar, Capital A CEO Tony Fernandes also shared that AirAsia is currently looking at possibly flying out of the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, also known as the Subang Airport. According to Fernandes, AirAsia will be applying for a licence to operate flights out of the Subang Airport.
This follows an earlier announcement by Transport Minister Anthony Loke who revealed that the government has approved the Subang Airport Regeneration Plan (SARP). Under SARP, Subang Airport is set to undergo a major transformation from an airport mostly dealing with turboprop planes into a regional aviation hub with a maximum capacity of 8 million passengers. SARP will also see airlines be allowed to operate narrowbody jetliners such as the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 737 at Subang; this was previously discontinued in 2002 when AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines were both ordered to move to KLIA.
There’s also a pretty compelling reason behind Tony wanting more flights between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore for AirAsia. The route was deemed the fifth busiest air route in the world last year, with over 2.4 million travellers heading down south in 2022 according to flight analyst firm OAG.
Incidentally, the opening of Subang Airport to AirAsia might not mean necessarily mean cheaper flights. If you were to check for flights to Singapore now, you’d find that most flights from Subang to Seletar Airport in Singapore is actually more expensive than flights from KLIA to Changi Airport, with fares for return flights starting at RM614 for Firefly flights via the former route compared to RM360 for AirAsia flights via the latter route when we looked up available tickets for flights on 23 February.
This is likely a reflection of Subang Airport being a more premium option for business travellers that want the convenience of Subang Airport being nearer to the city compared to KLIA; leisure travellers on the other hand are more likely to be willing to travel to KLIA if it saves a buck. Don’t just take our word for it though—even Tony thinks so too:
“In big cities like Kuala Lumpur, you need to have more airports. I think it is a very bold, brave and right decision for the domestic aviation industry in Malaysia. I imagine it will be more expensive to fly from Subang Airport than the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), but I think it is the right decision,” – Tony Fernandes, as quoted by The Edge Markets
Nevertheless, with the Subang Airport Regeneration Plan now approved, hopefully Malaysia can mimic Singapore’s Changi T4 when redeveloping Subang Airport. You can read more about Changi T4 here, but essentially Singapore’s latest terminal has got it right in so many ways to make air travel a great experience rather than an annoyance, with clever design and digital touchpoints to move passengers quickly in a smaller airport. It doesn’t need passengers to be there hours before their flight, nor does it need travellers to walk long distances just to get to their gate. If Subang Airport can be redeveloped in a similar fashion, there’s no doubt the potential it has to become another major gateway for passengers.