Airport operator Malaysia Airports Holdings (MAHB) and low-cost carrier AirAsia have gone public with their spat over the delays and escalating cost of the new low-cost terminal KLIA2.

MAHB told the Malaysian press that AirAsia had requested the new terminal's passenger capacity to be 45 million, up from the earlier proposed 30 million.

The figure, it said, is in line with the carrier's passenger volume projections, which would hit 45.3 million per annum in 2020.

Meanwhile, AirAsia has refuted the claim, sending a series of documents exchanged between the two parties as proof to the media.

In a press release, the airline added that it agreed that a capacity of 30 million is sufficient and that it did not ask for a larger terminal.

AirAsia said it also warned MAHB that the location of the terminal at KLIA West was not suitable for construction and that the cost of the airport would exceed the budget of M$2 billion ($637 million).

This has now almost doubled to M$3.9 billion, according to the latest estimate from the airport operator.

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes has lashed out at the airport operator on Twitter and said that the escalating cost would result in higher rental and surcharges imposed on the airline and its passengers.

The targeted operational date of the terminal has also been pushed back from March 2012 to April 2013.

MAHB attributed part of the delay to a late decision to upgrade the baggage handling system, but AirAsia said it only requested a semi- rather than fully-automated system.

"MAHB's board has unilaterally decided on a fully-automated [baggage handling system] to accommodate 45 million to 60 million passengers, which was again not agreed by AirAsia," said the airline.

AirAsia's claims prompted the airport operator to put up two documents on its website, containing correspondence showing that the airline had requested and agreed to a fully-automated baggage handling system.

At a press conference today, AirAsia said it hopes to form a joint committee with MAHB to ensure that the airport operator gives fair consideration to its operational requirements at the KLIA2.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news