AirAsia agrees to move to troubled new Malaysia airport

AirAsia agrees to move to troubled new Malaysia airport
A Malaysian police officer checks a mock passenger at the new low-cost airport at Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) during the Operational Readiness and Transfer (ORAT) exercise in Sepang, outside Kuala Lumpur on April 12, 2014.

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian budget airline AirAsia said Tuesday it would move to a much-delayed new international terminal set to open next month despite recently criticising it as rife with safety issues and other problems.

The facility near Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is being touted by Malaysian authorities as the world's largest low-cost airline terminal.

But the so-called "klia2" has been hit by repeated delays, construction problems and costly overruns that have sparked a parliamentary investigation and harsh criticism by AirAsia directed at the state-linked Malaysian airport operator building the terminal.

However, AirAsia, which has rapidly become one of the world's top budget airlines, said in a statement Tuesday it was now satisfied with the government's commitment to safety after authorities said the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) would be brought in to evaluate klia2.

"This decision reflects the priority that the government is giving to the issue of safety, and assuring the public that klia2 is safe," it said in a statement, adding it would move into the facility for its May 9 opening.

AirAsia had said two weeks ago it would not move in unless "unresolved pressing issues" were addressed, including "depressions" on the runway it said were discovered by independent inspectors.

AirAsia has also complained that it was shut out of decision-making, despite being the facility's biggest and most important future tenant.

Its concerns raised further questions about aviation safety in the country as authorities struggle with the crisis of missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

AFP was unable to reach AirAsia officials immediately for comment on the sudden about-face.

AirAsia group boss Tony Fernandes said on his Twitter feed that "some good progress" had been made on klia2.

The facility is being built by the country's airport operator, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB).

MAHB has said carriers will have to move in by May 9, when it plans to close an existing low-cost terminal nearby which handled 22 million passengers last year.

The klia2 terminal was originally due to open in 2011 but has been repeatedly delayed, and its price tag has doubled to $1.2 billion.

MAHB has previously acknowledged klia2 is located on unstable ground that may settle, and that the facility could require years of resulting upkeep.

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