KOTA KINABALU: Kota Kinabalu needs a new, bigger airport as the influx of tourists will push the existing Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) to its full runway capacity of 13 million passengers annually in the next five years, says Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) executive chairman General Tan Sri Abdullah bin Ahmad.
Abdullah said a study was currently being conducted by the State Government and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), which was expected to be completed in less than a year, while a separate study carried out by Mavcom was almost completed.
“A study is in process now to look into a new site for a bigger airport and it will have more than two runways to cater for the big influx of foreign tourists into Sabah.”
Although Abdullah declined to disclose the exact site for the new airport, he said the location would not be far from Kota Kinabalu.
Abdullah said although the study was still in preliminary stage, the new airport could be completed in four years, or five years maximum once the State Government had decided on the project and obtained endorsement by the Federal Government.
“It will be a loss to the State if the project cannot be completed in time before the existing airport reaches its full (runway) capacity because it is unable to accommodate the influx of tourists,” he said in an interview yesterday.
He said the current capacity of KKIA could be increased from the present 9 million passengers to 12 million passengers per year without major construction.
By constructing an additional building on the available land at the current terminal can further boost KKIA’s capacity to 21 million passengers a year.
However, Abdullah explained that KKIA only has a single runway which could only accommodate up to 13 million passengers a year.
“Although the terminal can accommodate up to 21 million passengers per year if expanded, a single runway cannot take the number of flights of that figure,” Abdullah said, adding that the increase in foreign tourists to Sabah would mainly come from China, as well as from Taiwan and Thailand.
“So the State Government, with the coordination from the Federal Government, needs (to build) a new, bigger airport to cater for the great increase in number of tourists coming to Sabah.
“A proper plan must be put in place to cater for Sabah tourists requirement at least for the next 20 years and beyond.”
Mavcom was formally established on March 1 last year under the Malaysian Aviation Commission Act 2015 to regulate economic and commercial matters related to civil aviation in Malaysia.
As Abdullah explained, Mavcom studies and advises the State Government on the need for a new airport but does not involve in deciding the site for the development.
Nonetheless, he hoped that the construction of the new airport could be coordinated with the Pan Borneo Highway to reduce additional planning costs, survey costs and costs to build a different highway to connect the new airport to Kota Kinabalu.
“So much costs could be saved if the new airport is build beside the (Pan Borneo) highway,” he said.