Saturday, May 24, 2008

JPJ seizes 10 Konsortium buses

Sunday May 25, 2008 THESTAR

IPOH: The Road Transport Department (JPJ) has seized 10 Konsortium Bas Ekspres Semenanjung Sdn Bhd buses since its recent ban.

It also confiscated the travel documents of another bus.

JPJ enforcement chief Salim Parlan said the buses had been found plying roads and highways in Kuala Lumpur, Pahang, Kedah, Malacca and Johor despite a month-long ban on its operations until June 13.

“The most recent bus we seized was in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday,” he told reporters yesterday after a JPJ community programme with the orang asli in Pos Raya, about 30km from here.

“In Terengganu, we only confiscated the documents as the bus was stationary at the terminal.”

The Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB) recently banned all buses of the company for ignoring safety measures.

The suspension came into effect on May 14 after an inquiry revealed many of the company’s buses were involved in road accidents.

He said following the end of the suspension period, the CVLB check the company before making its recommendations.

Salim, who is also a CVLB board member, added it was looking into other bus companies before deciding if similar action should be taken against them.

“Because such inquiries are very exhaustive and involves many parties, it might take some time before we know if others will have similar action taken against them,” he added.

He also clarified that although the body of the buses was “Konsortium Bas Ekspres”, it did not mean they were those of Konsortium Bas Ekspres Semenanjung Sdn Bhd because the company and its two sister companies, Super Coach Liner and Stoneway Corporation, operated under the banner name of Konsortium Bas Bhd.

The public, Salim said, could tell to whom the bus belonged to by looking at the name and address printed at the bottom corner of the vehicle.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

SunPower to build solar cell fabrication plant in Malaysia

Wednesday May 21, 2008 THESTAR

KUALA LUMPUR: SunPower Corporation, a Silicon Valley-based manufacturer of high efficiency solar cells, solar panels and solar systems, plans to build its next solar cell fabrication plant in Malaysia.
The new manufacturing facility is expected to be constructed in two phases, with the first phase comprising 14 solar cell production lines with a nameplate capacity of 40 megawatts each, it said in a statement.
After completion of phase two, the plant, Fab 3, is estimated to achieve materially lower capital and operating costs by including solar panel manufacturing, as well as dedicated ingot growing and wafering by partner companies, it said.
Solar cell production in Fab 3 is likely to begin in 2010, with the integrated site development planned to start later this year, SunPower said.
However, it did not reveal the amount of investment involved.
SunPower will launch its manufacturing operations with its industry leading 22% minimum rated Gen 2 solar cells, and expects to add production of its recently announced, higher efficiency Gen 3 solar cells at a later date. – Bernama

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dewan Rakyat: AirAsia owes MAHB RM100mil

Tuesday May 20, 2008 MYT 10:48:03 PM THESTAR

KUALA LUMPUR: Low-cost carrier AirAsia owes Malaysia Airport Holdings Berhad (MAHB) more than RM100mil for its use of airports in the country, said Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat.
He said AirAsia owed MAHB RM110.36mil since 2002 until March 31.
The minister who was replying to matters raised during winding up the debate on the motion of thanks on the royal address, said AirAsia felt that the rates were "too high" and had appealed for the amount to be reduced.
“AirAsia did not agree with the outstanding balance and had asked for a lower rate, so the matter has been forwarded to the Finance Ministry," he told Wee Choo Keong (PKR – Wangsa Maju).
He said the debts included RM5.4mil that the low cost carrier owed when it was operating the Rural Air Services (RAS) in Sabah and Sarawak.
Ong also clarified that the Government had never marginalized said Malaysia Airlines.

Govt to look into feasibility of Putrajaya monorail

Wednesday May 21, 2008 MYT 1:11:27 PM THESTAR

PUTRAJAYA: There is fresh hope for the long-overdue monorail project at the federal administrative capital to be revived.
The Government has directed Putrajaya Corporation to engage a consultant to look at the project's "financial model" to determine its feasibility.
Its president Tan Sri Samsudin Osman said the consultant, engaged recently, would also later make recommendations whether to go ahead or scrap the project.
"We have given the local-based consultant three months to work on this. Providing efficient public transport is a challenge to Putrajaya Corporation. With the monorail in place, we will have no problem in providing good transport facilities to the public," he said.
Samsudin was speaking to reporters Wednesday after exchanging documents between Putrajaya Corporation and the Indonesian Government over the purchase of 1.2ha land worth RM35mil at the diplomatic precinct. The land at Precinct 4 is meant for the construction of a new Indonesian Embassy here, replacing the existing facility located along Jalan Tun Razak.
The Government in 2004 announced that the RM400mil monorail project for Putrajaya would be shelved, citing lack of funds. The plan was to have monorail lines with a total length of 20km, divided into 13.2km for Line 1 and 6.8km for Line 2.
A total of 26 stations were planned, including stops at the Putra Mosque, Education Ministry, Putrajaya Hospital, the Putrajaya International Convention Centre, Alamanda, Precinct 9 and Precinct 14.

Samsudin said he had repeatedly urged the Government to reconsider the project to provide world-class public transportation at the federal administrative capital, especially with foreign missions and an international school to open its doors here.
"I have always been optimistic that the monorail will occupy the tracks in Putrajaya. It is only a matter of time," he said.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Embassy's Charge d' Affairs Tatang Budiutama Razak said the future embassy premises would help ease the congestion at its existing premises, particularly when it has to serve at least two million of its citizens working here.
"This figure does not include another two million Indonesian tourists, 200,000 permanent residents, 5,000 expatriates and 30,000 students here. You can imagine how busy our embassy is. In fact, this is the largest and busiest embassy we have," he said.
Tatang said the new premises would also house Indonesian cultural and trade centres while the current complex would later provide "public services", such as immigration matters.

Ferry service in Penang will not be scrapped

Wednesday May 21, 2008 THESTAR

BUTTERWORTH: The ferry service between here and Penang island will not be scrapped despite losses of more than RM50mil over the past four years.
State Public Works, Utilities and Transportation Committee chairman Lim Hock Seng said the Finance Ministry, which owns service operator Penang Port Sdn Bhd (PPSB), had made it clear that the service must not be stopped for any reason.
“We will instead upgrade the ferry service. We may also introduce catamarans to complement the existing services.

“However, the catamarans will only be used once approval is given by the Federal Government,” he told reporters Tuesday after attending a briefing on the ferry service and visiting the ferry terminal here.
PPSB chief operating officer Mohd Niana Merican Abd Kadir Merican said recently that the vehicular ferry service would be scrapped once the expansion of the Penang Bridge was completed in September 2009.
He said the company planned to operate a speedboat ferry service, as it was cheaper and more efficient.
Second Finance Minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop then said that any decision to scrap the ferry service would be made only by the Government.
“We have not decided on anything. The matter has not even been tabled to the Cabinet for consideration. At present, as far as the Finance Ministry is concerned, there is no issue over this,” he said.

Lim said the ferry service was running at a loss due to many reasons, including higher fuel price and low passenger and traffic volume.
PPSB posted a loss of RM12.11mil for its ferry service operations in 2004, RM13.4mil in 2005, RM10.73mil in 2006 and RM14.69mil last year.
Currently, six ferries ply between here and the island while two others are on standby and under maintenance.
The six ferries make 120 trips daily, with each trip costing PPSB RM772. The company makes RM421 for each full-load trip, resulting in a loss of about RM350 for each trip.
Lim said an average of 4,000 cars, 5,500 motorcycles, 500 lorries and 6,000 passengers used the ferry daily.

“All in, 110,560 cars used the ferry last year compared to 1.24 million cars which crossed the bridge during the period,” he added.
He said PPSB could not raise ferry fares without the Government’s approval despite suffering annual losses.
He added that the service may face a greater challenge when the expansion of the Penang Bridge was completed and the second bridge was ready in 2011.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cathay Pacific considers cutting routes to cope with surging fuel prices

Sunday May 18, 2008 MYT 6:58:28 AM

HONG KONG (AP) - Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways might cut routes to help cope with surging fuel prices, its chief executive said.
Tony Tyler said in an internal company newsletter, seen Saturday by The Associated Press, that the airline must focus on its most profitable markets, maximize use of fuel-efficient aircraft and cut unspecified routes if necessary.
Cathay spokeswoman Carolyn Leung said the plan does not apply to its China-focused sister airline Dragonair.
Cathay boasts more international coverage than Dragonair, offering flights to 120 destinations in 37 countries and territories.
While Cathay was earning better-than-expected revenue this year, "all this good work is being undone by the fuel crisis,'' Tyler said, noting that at the end of April the airline was paying 60 percent more for fuel than last year.
Tyler said the airline was also constrained by the limited room for raising fuel surcharges and ticket prices.
"We need to be sensitive to the market's ability to absorb fare increases - after all we are still in very uncertain economic times,'' he said.
Leung said the airline is in the process of replacing its fleet of seven B747-200 freighters with more fuel-efficient ones.
The price for a barrel of benchmark light, sweet crude oil for June delivery jumped US$2.17 Friday to settle at a record close of US$126.29 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Investment bank Goldman Sachs hiked its oil price forecast for the second half of the year to US$141 a barrel, up from US$107.-AP

Saturday, May 10, 2008

To London and back - for RM1,200

Sunday May 11, 2008 THESTAR

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia X will start its flights to London in March next year. And it will cost only about RM1,200 for a return trip on an economy ticket.
The country’s first long-haul budget carrier had announced last year that the Kuala Lumpur-London route would be its mainstay but could not take off because there was no suitable aircraft.
AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes said he had signed up for the lease of an Airbus A340 aircraft a few days ago.
“We will take delivery of the plane in January and it will take us several months to refurbish it.
“It will be configured to house 50 flatbeds (sleeper seats) and the rest would be economy seats but will be bigger and more comfortable than even that of a full service carrier,” Fernandes said in an interview from London.
He estimated that the average cost of a return fare to London would be about RM1,200 while the higher-class flatbed seats would cost about RM8,000 return.
The economy return fare on full service carriers like Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines is between RM4,000 and RM4,500 while a business-class ticket on these airlines costs more than RM20,000.
Fernandes said his airline was still negotiating with a couple of airports near the Greater London area but “chances are we will settle for London's Standsted Airport.''
The airport is located in the Uttlesford district of the English county of Essex, about 48km northeast of London. Stansted is a hub for a number of major European low-cost airlines. It is Britain’s third largest airport serving the London area after Heathrow and Gatwick.
Fernandes said AirAsia X would start with five flights a week using the first aircraft but “we will build it up to eventually two flights on a daily basis.”
“Our on-board entertainment system will be a state-of-the-art touch screen unit. You can watch movies, listen to music and even order your food from the unit,” he added.
On the permanent aircraft for the long-haul routes, he said AirAsia X was still looking at the Airbus A350 or the Boeing 787 (commonly called the Dreamliner).
“We have not decided on which wide-body aircraft but we want one that can give us the flexibility to serve Europe and the Americas. We want to turn Kuala Lumpur into a truly low-cost hub,” the AirAsia founder said.
AirAsia X operates long-haul flights that take six hours or more. It now operates flights to two destinations – Gold Coast in Australia and Hangzhou in China. The airline had announced that it would be flying to Tiruchirapalli in India in a couple of months.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

AirAsia boss: Let us compete against MAS

Tuesday May 6, 2008 THE STAR

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia has hit out at Malaysia Airlines for competing directly with its business model but at the same time not allowing the budget carrier to compete against the national airline.
AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes said that while he welcomes competition, he urged that his company be allowed to compete against MAS.
“The first thing they should do is to allow us to fly more flights to Singapore instead of asking the Government not to allow us to do so. They should also allow us to stage more flights from different points in Malaysia to Singapore,” said Fernandes.
He was responding to a statement by MAS managing director Datuk Seri Idris Jala who said the national carrier was creating new demand from low fares, just like AirAsia.
He said MAS should work together with AirAsia instead of competing and accused the full service airline of “surrendering” to Singapore Airlines (SIA).
“MAS and AirAsia will go to war and the only beneficiary will be SIA,” said Fernandes.
“AirAsia and AirAsia X are doing more to bring in foreign tourists than MAS. Although we have only a flight a day to Australia (Gold Coast), we are spending A$350,000 in advertising compared to SIA’s A$1.2mil (RM3.6mil). I know MAS is spending a lot less.
“Our two airlines are dedicated to turn KLIA into a major Asian hub again. MAS should join us in this mission,” he added.

AirAsia makes it a battle in the skies with its own offer

Tuesday May 6, 2008 THE STAR


KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia has countered Malaysia Airline’s Zero Fare campaign claiming that their cheapest air ticket still costs less than the national carrier’s latest product that was launched yesterday.

The budget carrier’s chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes announced that his airline would come out with two new initiatives. They are:

> AirAsia will pay the difference to any of his passengers if they can find any MAS airfare that is lower than the cheapest offered by AirAsia.

> A sub-Zero Fare campaign.

“Just print out the confirmed booking from MAS and I will pay the difference. As for the sub-Zero Fare, which will be launched in the next few days, it will be cheaper than zero,” said Fernandes in an interview.

Reacting to the MAS campaign which was launched by its managing director Datuk Seri Idris Jala yesterday, Fernandes said he was “very flattered” by the full-service carrier’s latest initiative because it was a copy of what AirAsia had been doing.

“This is the10th time that MAS has copied us. I guess imitation is the best form of flattery,” he added.

MAS announced that it has launched a new product that it called Zero Fare whereby domestic travellers need only pay the airport tax and surcharges. Jala also announced that the airline had set aside one million tickets for the travel period between June 10 and Dec 14.

For the domestic offer, the total charge for travel between the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak is RM122.40. For domestic travel without crossing the South China Sea, the charge will be RM81.45.

The tickets can only be purchased on-line. MAS is expected to expand this offer to Asean routes soon.

The Star front-paged this report yesterday and by mid-day the MAS website ( was reporting heavy traffic.

Fernandes also produced a list of prices to compare the fares offered by AirAsia against MAS' to prove that his was cheaper.

He said that he was sure that consumers would know which airline is making a better offer especially since his AirAsia gives better service.

“We have newer aircraft, better and hot food – although passengers have to buy them on board – better seats which are more spacious and we definitely have better crew.

“We have more frequency to local destinations.

“We have more point-to-point routes; for example one can fly directly from Penang to Kota Kinabalu or Johor Baru to Miri without having to transit at another airport,” said the AirAsia boss.

He also revealed that his airline had started selling hot roti canai on board his planes last month and would introduce chicken rice and satay soon.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Planes slow down to save fuel

NEW YORK (AP) -- Drivers have long known that slowing down on the highway means getting more miles to the gallon. Now airlines are trying it, too -- adding a few minutes to flights to save millions on fuel.
Southwest Airlines started flying slower about two months ago, and projects it will save $42 million in fuel this year by extending each flight by one to three minutes.
On one Northwest Airlines flight from Paris to Minneapolis earlier this week alone, flying slower saved 162 gallons of fuel, saving the airline $535. It added eight minutes to the flight, extending it to eight hours, 58 minutes.
That meant flying at an average speed of 532 mph, down from the usual 542 mph.
"It's not a dramatic change," said Dave Fuller, director of flight operations at JetBlue, which began flying slower two years ago.
But the savings add up. JetBlue adds an average of just under two minutes to each flight, and saves about $13.6 million a year in jet fuel. Adding just four minutes to its flights to and from Hawaii saves Northwest Airlines $600,000 a year on those flights alone.
United Airlines has invested in flight planning software that helps pilots choose the best routes and speeds. In some cases, that means planes fly at lower speeds. United estimates the software will save it $20 million a year.
"What we're doing is flying at a more consistent speed to save fuel," said Megan McCarthy, a United spokeswoman.
United expects to pay $3.31 a gallon for fuel this year -- not much less than what the average American driver pays for a gallon of unleaded at the pump. Southwest, which has an aggressive fuel hedging program, expects to pay about $2.35.

Fliers, already beleaguered by higher fares, more delays and long security lines, may not even notice the extra minutes. The extra flight time is added to published flight schedules or absorbed into the extra time already built into schedules for taxiing and traffic delays.
"If saving fuel costs me a few extra minutes out of my day, then ... my inconvenience is nothing," said Leah Nichols, a television producer who lives in San Francisco and was fresh off a flight at Newark Liberty International Airport, waiting for a train to New York. "I'm cool with that."
David Gannalo, a Phoenix financial software company executive, is more than willing to give up four minutes to help airlines cut costs.
"Anything that helps the airlines, you know, because they're going bankrupt left and right," Gannalo said. "Anything that helps them out will probably be good for the industry in the long term."
Across the board, airlines are feeling the pain of higher energy prices. For jet fuel delivered at New York Harbor, the spot price -- airlines pay it when they need more fuel than they've already locked down in a contract -- has jumped 73 percent in the past year, to $3.54 a gallon, according to government data.
Airlines are trying other measures as well to deal with higher fuel costs, including raising fares, adding fuel surcharges to tickets and charging extra for a second checked bag rather than a third.

It's a tough time for the airline industry. Several smaller airlines have filed for bankruptcy protection in recent weeks, many citing high fuel costs. Fuel costs have also resulted in sharp first-quarter losses by some airlines.
Not every airline is taking the slowdown approach.
"We have the flying schedule to protect," said John Hotard, a spokesman for American Airlines. He said the carrier does other things to save fuel -- for instance, installing small vertical stabilizers called winglets to the ends of some aircraft wings, which boosts fuel efficiency by improving aerodynamics.
American also tries to keep its planes plugged in to ground-based power and air conditioning for as long as possible to conserve fuel, and pushes air traffic controllers to assign its flights to altitudes where they will have less headwind or greater tailwind. Many other airlines have adopted similar measures.
Slowing flights down isn't a magic bullet. It can help airlines conserve fuel, but it can also lead to greater labor and maintenance costs if airline employees work longer hours and planes spend more time in service, said Bob Mann, an independent airline consultant based in Port Washington, N.Y.
And slowing down to conserve fuel can only be pushed so far: Below a certain speed -- which varies depending on the plane -- an aircraft's fuel usage can actually rise.
Airlines must strike a delicate balance, seeking an aircraft's "sweet spot" on fuel use without slowing down so much that other costs, and flight delays, rise, Mann said: "Everything's a tradeoff."
Consumer advocates say the extra minutes shouldn't matter.
"If it means that airlines can keep their costs down, keep their ticket prices down, and save a little fuel, that's fine," said Travis Plunkett, legislative director at the Consumer Federation of America.
But others doubt the change will result in lower fares any more than previous cost cutting, such as eliminating meals or taking away blankets.
"I don't think so," Mann said. "When they took off the mystery meat, did they lower fares?"

source: Associated Press