Air Asia Decides to Build Its Own Airport in Kuala Lumpur

Let’s say you’re running Air Asia, the premier low-cost carrier in Southeast Asia, and you’ve got a problem. You want to keep growing, but that airport at your primary hub in Kuala Lumpur can’t keep up. What do you do? Apparently, you build your own airport.

Air Asia says that it has already outgrown the low cost carrier terminal that was built at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in 2006, and it needs more room. KLIA has plans to make more room there, but Air Asia says that costs are too high there and it wouldn’t happen fast enough anyway. Instead, they’re going to build “KLIA East” which will be, uh, east of the existing KLIA in Labu which is apparently where there’s an enormous development project underway called Negeri Sembilan Vision City. Take a look at it on the map and you’ll see that for customers in Kuala Lumpur, it’s not much different than going to KLIA except that unlike the existing KLIA, it will be on a train line. Oh, and operating costs are expected to be 30% less.

I see something like that and I have to wonder if an airline in the US could do this. Technically? Maybe. Practically? No chance in hell. If a US airline wanted to take a stab at it, it would have to be completely privately funded with no federal money being used for operations. A US airline would also have to find a place where there’s a big population base and land is affordable. Bzzt. Try again. Even then I’m not sure if this would be allowed under anti-trust rules.

Back in the day, Boeing, United Air Lines, and Burbank Airport were all part of the same company. The government broke that one up, but I’m not sure whether that would still happen today. Anyone know the rules on this? Could an airline actually build their own airport in the US is they so choose?

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