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23 July 2018

SEPANG - The move to consolidate all airport and flight operations under one roof at Terminal 1 (T1) Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) has brought tremendous benefit to national tourism particularly for the state of Sabah.  In 2016, a full year after the move by the AirAsia Group to T1, the state had attained healthy growth in tourist arrivals. Sabah welcome 9.4% more international tourists in 2017 vs 2016, resulting in 1.2 million international passengers travelling to Sabah in 2017. The total tourist arrivals have also increased from 3.4 million in 2016 to 3.7 million in 2017, representing a 7.5% growth. 

Sabah had also been successful in attracting more airlines to operate direct flights to and from KKIA. Apart from its robust tourism activities, the more superior and conducive facilities at T1 KKIA had provided greater passenger comfort and convenience.  T1 also has the advantage of greater connectivity and offers more opportunities for growth for the airlines. Six new international airlines have started operating at KKIA bringing in tourists from Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan. There are now 25 airlines operating at KKIA. 

Based on the airport passenger traffic movement data, KKIA was experiencing negative passenger movement growth of -2% and -3% in 2014 and 2015 respectively. This improved by leaps and bounds from 2016 onwards where KKIA had registered double digit growth of 10% in 2016 and in 2017. For the first half of 2018, there was at 7% growth over the same period last year. This impressive growth has been brought about mainly due to the rise in international passenger traffic movements which is a reflection of the high tourist numbers Sabah has enjoyed in recent years. International traffic movements grew from 1.6 million in 2014 & 2015 to 2.1 million in 2016, an increase of 27%. Last year it grew by another 22% to 2.5 million.  

This growth is also evident for the AirAsia Group itself. Their growth in Terminal 2 (T2) KKIA, which had hovered between 2% to 3% in 2014 and 2015 jumped to 5% in 2016, 11% in 2017 and 15% for the first half of 2018. Obviously, the move had facilitated growth for the AirAsia Group. This trend was not unique to AirAsia alone as other airlines with international routes had also registered encouraging growth of 39% in 2016 and 43% in 2017.  

From the onset, T2 was meant to serve as a temporary terminal catering to low-cost carriers until a bigger and better facility at T1 was completed.  Once completed in 2010, all other low-cost carriers had moved to T1 with the exception of the AirAsia Group which moved later in December 2015, driven by their own need for capacity and growth. At no point in time in time did Malaysia Airports force the AirAsia Group to move to T1.  

The consolidation of terminal and flight operations in a bigger and better terminal is in line with global trends in aviation to improve connectivity, accelerate growth and provide better customer satisfaction. Major successful global hubs have an optimal mix of long haul full service carriers and low-cost carriers at their airports.  In recent years, many countries especially in Europe – Spain, UK and Germany have started closing down dedicated low-cost terminals. In this region, Changi International Airport has also closed down its dedicated low-cost terminal in 2012 and merged low cost operations with the main terminal. In fact, Ryan Air, known to be the world’s largest low-cost carrier, is increasingly moving into main terminals to capitalise on traffic and connectivity available at these terminals.  

Bearing this in mind, Malaysia Airports has put in place strategies to further position KL International Airport (KLIA) as a preferred hub in the region, as well as other international airports in Malaysia such as KKIA as feeder hubs. This had required putting in place initiatives to encourage more airlines to operate at international airports under its management.  Apart from enhancing connectivity, operating from a single terminal had allowed for optimisation of resources and more seamless and improved passengers experience without the hassle of changing terminals. 

In encouraging more airlines to operate at KKIA, Malaysia Airports had also closely collaborated with the state of Sabah to further promote the state as a destination. A dedicated fund of about RM17 million has been allocated by Malaysia Airports to assist various destination marketing activities undertaken by the state and airlines to promote new routes such as Wuhan, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shenzen, Taipei and Singapore. 

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