Southeast Asia's biggest budget carrier AirAsia says it is "baffled" by a codesharing deal involving national carrier Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines (SIA) and SIA subsidiary SilkAir.
AirAsia questioned how the deal would help the Malaysian government's ambitions of making Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) a major regional hub and supplant Singapore's Changi Airport.
"I am baffled by the tripartite codesharing," AirAsia's executive director Kamarudin Meranun told reporters in a recent interview.
Kamarudin said the deal would give Singapore Airlines and SilkAir frequent access to Malaysian domestic destinations without having to fly to KLIA.
"When we requested locating the low-cost terminal at Subang Airport, they [Malaysia Airlines] strongly opposed the reopening of the old airport, saying it will be against the plan to make KLIA a regional hub," he said.
"Now two carriers out of Changi will have access to Malaysia's domestic destinations without having to fly to KLIA. How is KLIA going to benefit?" Kamarudin said.
"Changi Airport will see an increase in passenger traffic."
The government has picked KLIA over Subang as the location for a new 110 million ringgit (US$29 million) low-cost carrier terminal.
Singapore Airlines and SilkAir will start codeshare flights with Malaysia Airlines between Singapore and Kuching in Malaysia's Sarawak state, and between Singapore and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia's Sabah state, from March 27.
These flights, along with ones to Penang, will bypass KLIA.
AirAsia, meanwhile, has been barred by the Singapore government from flying to Changi from Malaysia and Indonesia.
Azrul Azwar, senior economist with MIDF, said he also is puzzled at the codeshare deal and "there is some indication that Malaysia Airlines gets special treatment."
"Malaysia's ambition to become the premier hub in Asia will have to be shared with Singapore," Azrul said.