Proposed Malaysian startup AirAsia is back - well almost. Owners Hicom and the Mofaz group are launching an airport ground services company to cement their role in aviation, while the government continues to consider the application for an operating licence.

AirAsia was to have become Malaysia's second national carrier last year but the government baulked after pleas from MAS' new majority owner Tajudin Ramli that he be allowed to get the flag carrier back into shape without competition.

But the proposed startup hasn't been put off by the delay. Hicom Holdings president Jamil Jan says he is still bent on launching AirAsia as soon as the Malaysian government gives the green light. 'We are committed to the second carrier as genuine investors and operators. We do not intend to sell the airline licence after obtaining it,' Jamil promises.

Meanwhile, Hicom and Mofaz have formed a joint-venture company, KL Airport Services, to provide ground services at Malaysia's new international airport, scheduled to open in 1997. Jamil says Hicom will initially invest US$100 million for an air cargo complex, aircraft maintenance facilities, flight catering services and ground handling services.

He remains unhappy about the protection afforded to MAS, complaining the national flag is unwilling to share its regional routes with a local competitor.

Ramli, who has turned MAS' fortunes around since taking over last year, continues to take steps to improve performance. His latest move involves hiving off less profitable routes to subsidiary Pelangi Air to cut costs.

Source: Airline Business