Another open letter to the MAB chairman
Published on: Sunday, July 24, 2022
By: Datuk John Lo
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POORLY managed, outdated KKIA is bad for Sabah. First, allow me to inform you that the Sabah Government under our Chief Minister Hajiji, has attracted RM47.36 billion of investments between 2021 and now, many of which are being implemented already. Sabah is beginning to recover from the Covid Pandemic and is still sorting out the impacts of economic chaos from the Russian/Ukraine war. The message to you as Chairman of MAB is that Sabah can’t afford for our investors and tourists to be greeted on arrival by KKIA in its present state. Dirty is one thing. Out of date/lack of facilities are another.

KKIA is their first impression on arrival and last impression on departure. KKIA an old, tired, dirty, neglected airport with poor, terribly out of date facilities. KKIA has no semblance with the promotion of Sabah as attractive investment and premier tourism destinations by the Sabah government and Sabah Tourism respectively. 

We want KKIA to provide Sabah with some competitive edge. In its present state, it is more of a liability.


Blame Management’s failure, not the cleaning contractors.

In all sincerity, your management’s briefing to Sabah’s Minister of Tourism has fallen very short of expectation relative to the years of neglect and expectation of an international airport. At best, it is a knee-jerk reaction. Shifting the blame onto the cleaning contractor is unacceptable. Had your management been on the ball, KKIA would not have sunk to such low level of unkemptness. Your management has allowed the cleaning contractors to be sloppy. The MAB Board should not allow MAB management to hide behind the cleaning contractor. All these years of bad quality upkeep and maintenance only shows one thing, your management has failed, which, in turn, is a bad reflection on the MAB Board of Directors. 

Therefore, the MAB Board must take responsibility. It should demand the MAB management to pull up its sock.

Now cleaner toilets and brighter ambience—-For how long?

I appreciate your management’s prompt action to brightening up and keeping the toilets cleaner since Jafry’s inspection. For how long? If your management does not change its work attitude, KKIA would soon slide back to where it was a few weeks ago. There is no substitute for the MAB Board to demand its management to be effectual.

KKIA needs a total renovation, RM78m budget is peanut. 

Your management has tried to give the impression to Jafry that all will be ok as MAB has allocated RM78 million for 2022 and replacement of the clearing contractor. Enough or insufficient is in the details of the budget, execution and quality of management. No amount is enough for bad management of which, it has been obvious for years to all Sabahans except that MAB Board has kept itself in self-denial. 

I invite the MAB Board to inspect KKIA. It needs an extensive renovation badly and urgently.

With due respect, KKIA needs a total revamp, an extensive renovation and installation of up-to-date equipment and facilities.

You may recall from MAB’s records that it took Sabah up to 15 years, to turn the whole world upside down, to beg on our knees, before KKIA was built. Then the construction lasted many years. On its completion, KKIA was already at least 20 years out of date. Adding to years of neglect, KKIA needs an extensive renovation badly. 

It is long overdue for MAB to reinvest some of the billions that MAB has collected from KKIA for a thorough renovation/extension.

KKIA needs these to be sorted out in an innovation.

Allow me to highlight some pointers to you and the MAB Board. 

[a] Insufficient dining facilities. For starters, there is not one decent restaurant. All are fast food.

[b] Insufficient dining tables at the fast-food restaurants. Passengers can be seen standing by the tables with their food trays in hand, waiting for other dinners to give up their seats. My wife and I had experienced it many times.

[c] Insufficient chairs during peak periods in both check-in and departure halls. More modern and comfortable chairs should be provided.

[d] Sabah is a family holiday destination. No facilities like play area or facilities to entertain children. No breast-feeding room.

[e] Check-in counters are ancient. Some of them have paint peeling off and bits and pieces breaking off.

[f] KKIA is an international airport. It does not international time.

[g] Retail outlets are like hawker stalls at night markets or tamu grounds, no minimum standard of design and décor.

[h] Insufficient Immigration counters. Queues were long till it reaches outside the immigration hall during pre-Covid. Will happen again soon as flights are resuming.

[i] All the toilets need updating from toilet seats to floor tiles. Any regular test on bacteria and germs, etc? 

[j] On and off WiFi is frustrating. Uncomfortable charging stations. No working areas. 

[k] Equipment is ancient. Baggage carousels are dated and need regular oiling. 

[l] Poor and substandard service level is everywhere, from toilets to the dining tables, from check-in to departure to poor quality of announcements to the PA system. The back of the house is probably 10 times worse. 

[m] The car park and roads within KKIA precinct need resurfacing. Patching up is not sufficient.

[n] A proper, decent, comfortable smoking room is required.

[o] MAB should do a time/motion study to understand what Sabahans and tourists reduce frustration in KKIA.

[p] MAB should work with immigration and custom to improve the efficiency of arrival and departure procedure. Is it necessary for every passengers, especially elderly couples to lift their bags for scanning? 

[q] Do you have sniffing dogs to detect drug smuggling?

The MAB Board of Directors must manage KKIA so that Sabahans can be proud of it.

Appoint proper airport consultants to look into KKIA.

Please do this as KKIA needs to be improved and up-graded for the 21st century.

Please don’t appoint half-past six consultants.

Is Sabah represented in MAB Board?

MAB seems to have an impressive, smartly dressed Board of Directors and a large management team on the website. Pray tell us —-Does Sabah have a representative on your Board? If not, why? Don’t you think Sabah which has the 2nd busiest airport in Malaysia and one of your largest revenue earners, deserve to have at least 1 or 2 Directors?

Likewise, is there any Sabahan on your senior management team? If not, why not? 

Federal agencies/GLCs are a major cause for Sabahans’ anti-feelings against Federal Government.

The Federal Government controls almost everything. Unfortunately, most Sabahans and Sarawakians aren’t very happy with the federal government. A lot of this unhappiness has little to do with politics. The problem can be addressed quite easily if the federal GLCS are efficient and capable. KKIA is a prime example. If you as chairman and other Board of Directors of MAB can manage the KKIA well, a big source of resentment against the federal government can be resolved.

Be well advised that there is now a new Sabah, especially among young Sabahans that we Sabahans will not tolerate any 3rd class treatment. Haven’t you noticed that Sabah political leaders from government and opposition are becoming increasingly outspoken on the unfair treatment from the federal government and GLCs?

- The views expressed here are the views of the writer Datuk John Lo and do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Express.

- If you have something to share, write to us at: [email protected]



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