THE third breakdown this year of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) aerotrain is the least of its problems, as the national gateway slips to 34th place in a worldwide ranking of airports.
Customer complaints of dirty toilets, unfriendly staff and long queues have caused KLIA to steadily lose its position as one of the top 10 airports in the world.
The decline was reflected in rankings on Skytrax, a London-based research body on the aviation industry. Its annual survey of airports worldwide is based on responses from users.
Its 2017 survey placed KLIA in No. 34 among the top 100 international airports. In 2012, KLIA was ranked No. 8.
However, in the category of airports with that passenger traffic of between 50 million and 60 million, KLIA placed fifth behind Changi in Singapore, Incheon in South Korea, Denver in the United States and Madrid in Spain.
KLIA was also voted by passengers as being better than Suvarnabhumi International airport in Bangkok, Soekarno-Hatta in Jakarta and John F Kennedy in New York.
According to its website, Skytrax World Airport Awards is a prestigious accolade in the aviation industry. It is based on surveys among users of international airports.
According to Skytrax, Passengers’ Choice Awards include responses from more than 13 million respondents from 105 countries who evaluated 550 airports.
It covers user satisfaction with the efficiency of airport processes, terminal cleanliness and comfort, and user facilities.
It also gathers user feedback on immigration staff attitude, police, safety and customs, shops, restaurants, cafes and information counters.
The 2017 report showed KLIA’s decline in performance over the years from 2011 to 2017.
The review page showed a list of recurring issues, such as unfriendly staff, dirty toilets and long queues for immigration checks.
These complaints were also reflected in recent interviews with KLIA users.
Anisah Ramli, for instance, told of her long wait and queue at the automated passport scanning system when she was leaving for Beijing, China.
“The system is new and none of the (airport) staff came to assist us. So, a lot of people took some time getting through and this caused the queues to grow longer,” said the 42-year-old.
“I understand that maybe it is the peak season with school holidays and festivals. There might be a lot of travellers but they could have at least done something to lessen the wait time,” she said.
When she returned 10 days later, Anisah had to endure another queue, this time at the baggage claim area.
“My flight touched down at 9.15pm but I only got my luggage at 11pm. That’s absurd.”
Anisah was even more annoyed when asked about KLIA’s cleanliness.
“KLIA’s toilets have never been clean each time I’m there, I don’t understand how this can happen.”
Zazria Zazlynn Zainuddin, 32, who just returned from Australia, also said the same thing about the automated passport scanning system.
“The new system, I pity the elderly… it’s not that there are no instructions… but for the elderly, it’s hard for them,” she said and asked why there was no immigration staff to assist them.
“It’s different in Perth, they place their officers at the areas near the automatic gates.”
Zazria is also baffled by the police and customs officers, whom she claimed were nonchalant during the baggage checks.
She said on the day of her departure, the officers were on their phones and sitting down when passengers were going through the check-in zone.
“I think that attitude is worrying because it would be easy to sneak through the system if they don’t care. As a passenger, of course, I’m worried,” she told The Malaysian Insight.
Zazria, who works in the private sector, observed that KLIA staff were not friendly and smiled less.
“Even as Malaysians, we feel awkward with their unfriendliness and the dirty toilets… what more the tourists.”
Zazria added that the level of cleanliness of KLIA toilets did not match its status as an international airport.
“To me, it is very embarrassing. How can the airport’s toilets be that dirty?” she said, adding that it portrays a bad image to the tourists.
KLIA is managed by Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), a public-listed company started in 1992, which operates, maintains and manages airports in Malaysia.