GEORGE TOWN: Low-cost carrier AirAsia today issued a travel advisory asking those departing the Penang International Airport (PIA) to leave earlier due to “increased airport congestion”.
“We advise guests who are departing from Penang International Airport to allow extra time to clear check-in formalities.
“With increased airport congestion, guests are encouraged to allow an additional 45 minutes to complete the check-in and documentation check process,” it said in a statement posted on its website today.
The airport also told travellers to use web check-in services, which is available 14 days before all flights.
While there was no immediate comment on why the airline has issued the advisory, Jeremy Clark, an aviation hospitality consultant, posted a video of a long queue at the AirAsia check-in counter.
Clark told FMT the situation was “utter misery” as the line of passengers waiting to check in ran almost three-quarters the length of the entire terminal, spanning from the check-in counters to the McDonald’s restaurant at the other end.
“It was appalling. Cheap fares are one thing, but this? With AirAsia staff running up and down the queue calling out for passengers for about-to-go flights, the experience was not one AirAsia or Penang airport should be proud of.”
Meanwhile, AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes said the situation at the airport was due to the “poorly designed airport”.
“Penang airport is horrible. I feel sorry for the state government. They have done such a good job on tourism. Yet, we can’t expand.
“And queues are horrible as the airport is poorly designed. So many LCC airlines now. And airport tax is RM75. Shocking,” he tweeted, referring to low-cost carriers (LCC).
The finance ministry has approved plans for the PIA to be expanded from the current 6.5 million passengers per year to 16 million passengers per year soon at a cost of RM1.2 billion.
The terminal is currently bursting at its seams with eight million passengers this year — 120% more than its capacity.
More recently, airport operator Malaysia Airport Holdings Berhad (MAHB) had said PIA will be expanded by June 2020.
Since 2016, the Penang government has been urging the MAHB and the federal government to upgrade the PIA as it was dubbed as a “pasar malam airport” due to the congestion experienced there.
PIA was enlarged in 2012 to meet its current capacity of 6.5 million passengers and this was supposed to last until 2020. However, the numbers shot up to 6.7 million passengers in 2017.
PIA is the second busiest airport in the country after the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, with Kota Kinabalu International Airport taking third place.