AIR CARGO QUARTERLY - Senai International Airport pitches itself as “Asia’s Hahn Airport”

By: | at 08:00 PM | Channel(s): Air Cargo News  

By Manik Mehta, Johor Bahru (Malaysia)Taking inspiration from Germany’s Hahn airport, a low-cost airport which is absorbing some of the excess cargo demand at neighboring Frankfurt airport, the Senai International Airport (Senai) in the state of Johor in southern Malaysia is making a strong pitch as “Asia’s Hahn airport”.
“Yes, you could say that we are Asia’s Hahn airport,” Shaun Kumar, Senai’s general manager (business development) readily agreed during an interview. “We are endeavoring to provide good-quality service at the lowest possible costs in the region,” he added.
Apparently, the subtle reference is to neighboring Singapore’s Changi Airport whose spiraling costs are making many airlines, shippers and express carriers gnash their teeth. But the subtle reference also is indirectly aimed at the much larger “brother,” Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), where operational costs are much higher than those at Senai. According to Kumar, cargo handling costs at Senai are 40% less than Changi and, at least, 20% less than KLIA. “We are doing all the ground-handling work ourselves and this helps us save,” explains Kumar.
However, Kumar emphatically denies that Senai is competing against the other bigger airports in the region, particularly Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. “What we are trying to do is to position ourselves between Changi and KLIA,” he emphasizes. Senai is eyeing the surplus Johor-based cargo volume which is also handled, currently, by Changi.
Realizing the tremendous business potential inherent in the express package transportation business, Senai International Airport, which was recently nominated as one of the three best emerging airports in Asia at the recent Asian Freight and Supply Chain Awards (AFSCA) held in Hong Kong, is also aggressively courting express carriers.
“Because of its size and strategic location close to Singapore, Senai International Airport offers an attractive base for express carriers,” observed Kumar. Senai has been making a strong pitch for its facilities in an effort to attract major players such as UPS, FedEx, and DHL.
Senai is undergoing a ten-year development plan to transform itself into a key cargo, logistics and passenger hub in the region. The airport is aggressively pushing its cargo business. Kumar is confident that the newly built cargo terminal, with a rough handling capacity of 100,000 tons a year, will facilitate further growth in cargo business. Senai is capitalizing on the world air-cargo market which, by its own projections, is expanding by an annual growth rate of 6.2%.
Senai handled 20,000 tons in 2004. Kumar said that Senai is concentrating on niche cargo. “We are trying to attract full freighter integrated business, providing a one-stop-service for freighters. In fact, we are actually complementing, and not competing with, Singapore’s Changi Airport,” he maintains.
While Air Asia, the no-frill Malaysia-based airline, and Malaysia Airline operate from Senai, Kumar predicts that other “logistics players” might soon join them. “I cannot disclose the names because our negotiations have not been completed,” he replies when asked to name the “logistics players” he has in mind. However, Johor’s logistics circles say that Senai is very keen to get some European players.
Kumar says that Senai is in a position to accommodate all types of freighters currently deployed, including Boeing 747 freighters. Again, the comparison with Hahn comes to the fore as Kumar speaks of the low-cost benefits to airlines. “We are indeed something of a Hahn in Asia, but unlike Hahn, which together with Frankfurt belongs not only to the same country but also to the same region of Germany, Senai and Changi are located in two different countries,” he says.
Senai’s general manager describes the United States as the “best market” for outbound traffic from Asia for semi-finished and fished goods; Europe is best for perishables and Dubai for Halal brand products. “Being a Moslem state which has all the necessary facilit

American Journal of Transportation