Go Fly a Kite in Lor Star, Malaysia

Now, when was the last time somebody told you go fly a kite?
In to-day’s politically correct climate, you can now turn around and say, “go fly LCA.” That’s saying back, go fly a low cost airline to somewhere. And, your first stop? In Malaysia, you go to any of Pos Malaysia’s ( now the country’s privatised postal services provider ) 600 major outlets. Besides paying your bills, posting a letter, you can now also buy a plane ticket. Malaysia’s best known flying air portal, AirAsia now says you only need to have a computer access, then run to the nearest post office to confirm your bookings.

For a service charge of US$ 65 cents, all a passenger has to do to make a payment is just fill in a form confirming booking details.

” With the new payment channel, we can now reach more Malaysians ” says CEO Tony Fernandez.
It is an example of what governments can achieve in the market place when you marry an agggressive and enterprising management with a sound free market policies. In the case of AirAsia, it is also about harnessing the latest technology available in the market place to-day: the Internet, which accounts for some 70% of its sales.

If you are living in the northern state of Kedah, you are spoilt for choices: hop across the border, and when you are in Thailand, go into any 7-Eleven outlet, buy a slurpee, a stamp – and a plane ticket.
Nok Air, Thailand’s third no frills airline – partly owned by Thailand’s national carrier Thai Airways, which has decided on a wing-to-wing approach in the skies – looked around , and seeing a 7-Eleven outlet around every corner, in every town in Thailand didn’t take much persuasion or convincing there’s good money from 2,400 outlets.

That’s something would be promoters of low cost airlines can learn from these East Asian tigers: how to sell plane tickets and keep the planes in the air, instead of parked on the airport tarmac. And in the process, to paraphrase the tagline coined by AirAsia, one of the most aggressive providers in the market of no frills, low cost flights ” now everyone can fly.”

Interestingly, by adding Haadyai in its advertising banners to the town it flies to, Alor Star in the north ( border towns in different countries ) AirAsia has brought with it a new unstated mission: become the catalyst for new business opportunities. Not only the flights have been viable, it has also now made the state capital more accessible.

Malaysians have always perceived Haadyai, a gateway town one-and-a half hours drive by road across the border, as a racy town. Now, a man has a lot of explaining to do if he says he has been to a 7-Eleven store to confirm a seat booking – but disappeared for half the night.

The Kedah state government, which has been trying to sell the ‘ business triangle market ‘ consisting of South Thailand, Alor Star and Sumatra is now drawing up ambitious plans of developing Alor Star into a potential northern aviation hub, targeting businessmen and trade in the northern region.
In what is proof that market confidence and political stability make or break governments, private enterprise has answered the government’s call: setting up of the state’s own low cost airline, Ked-Air by the private sector.

It started plying the Alor Star/ Medan route three times weekly, since January this year.
In a display of business prudence, the airline is starting business using a leased Fokker plane. But it hasn’t stopped the infant airline looking at the skies – future destinations include other northern towns with airports: Kota Baru ( in Malaysia ), Phuket ( in Thailand ) and Bandar Aceh ( in Indonesia).
Despite not flying to K. Lumpur, passengers from Medan can still continue flying at low cost by connecting flights with AirAsia which flies Alor Star – K. Lumpur, or hop across the border for connections on Nok Air, or Air Asia’s own joint venture in Thailand, Thai AirAsia for flights within Thailand.

At the recent Asia Pacific Low Cost Airline symposium, held in Singapore, association director Sim Kok Chwee told conference delegates: ” the emergence of low cost airlines will launch a new style of intra- regional impulse travel. Tourists will fly regularly for long weekend breaks and short holidays.”
” Niche markets, such as spas, golf courses, dive site operators and shopping centers will gain the most from the new Asian impulse travellers. Low cost airlines will become a major force in Asia Pacific. No frills carriers can reach destinations more quickly and cheaply.”

by Y. Sulaiman / eTN Malaysia

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