Airport GCEO Speaks

A corporate leader with diverse experience, he is harnessing the latest technological advances to spur Malaysia Airports to greater heights as a smart aviation regional hub.

This month, Dato’ Mohd Shukrie Mohd Salleh shares the significant role its flagship KL International Airport’s (KLIA) electronic world trade platform (eWTP) is playing as a key global hub delivering medical supplies to combat the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and the good news that departure seats across Asia-Pacific have risen at the end of April for the first time since the crisis started.

Acting Group CEO Speaks

I am elated that Alibaba Group has selected KLIA’s eWTP as one of its three global hubs besides Belgium and Ethiopia for the speedy delivery of medical goods in the global community’s fight against Covid-19. This will not only further strengthen Malaysia’s role as a major trading hub for logistic operations in Asia-Pacific but will also spur our KLIA Aeropolis’ Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) Park’s efforts to support our country’s ecommerce aspirations stipulated in the National eCommerce Strategic Roadmap launched in 2016.

Ecommerce will be the main driver of our air cargo business. We have seen several cargo and chartered flights take off since April and are expecting to see more of them taking place in the coming months. Meanwhile, latest data from our Research and Planning Department has confirmed our worst fears with April’s passenger traffic performance at our network of airports nosediving by 99% to 137,000 compared to the same period a year ago.

This is attributed to the full enforcement of the government’s Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia. We also take cognisance of travel restrictions imposed by other countries, which have led to such dismal performance, not only in our country but also globally. According to the United Nations specialised agency for tourism, World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) recent statement, out of the 217 destinations worldwide, 156 or 72% have placed a complete stop on international tourism.

Its research data, as of 27 April, also shows that in 25% of the destinations, the restrictions have been in place for at least three months while in 40% of the destinations, they have been introduced at least two months ago. The last category applies to Malaysia as our MCO started on 18 March. Breaking the data by region, UNWTO says 83% of destinations in Europe have implemented complete closure of borders for international tourism followed by the Americas (80%), Asia-Pacific (70%), the Middle East (62%) and Africa (57%).

Discussions for the lifting of the travel bans are underway. Looking at China, which has eased its lockdown restrictions, we have seen the recovery of the Chinese domestic market in the last two months. In the easing of restrictions by our government under the Conditional MCO from 4 May, several businesses have been allowed to resume under tight standard operating procedure guidelines. This augurs well for the economy of our country. The duty-free shops at our airports have been able to restart their business alongside the retail outlets providing essential services. Some of the food and beverage outlets now offer dine- in besides takeaway orders.

Looking at how the Asia-Pacific aviation market is responding to the pandemic based on OAG data, we are happy to learn that the number of departure seats across the region rose on 27 April for the first time since the Covid-19 crisis began, with capacity totalling 17.7 million seats, up 5% from 20 April. The OAG data also shows growth in other regions with South East Asia’s capacity increasing by 346,657 seats to 3.26 million.

And, with our own local airlines recommencing their flights to key domestic routes with minimal frequencies from 29 April and their plans to have more flights in tandem with the government’s endorsement to allow more inter-state border movements, although under strict travelling guidelines, we see the return of some glimmer of hope for our travel and aviation industry. In keeping with the new normal, we have stepped up the standard operating procedures and precautionary measures at our airports. Stay safe and don’t forget to wear your face masks!

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