Kota Kinabalu International Airport

Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Kota Kinabalu
Summary
Airport typePublic
OwnerKhazanah Nasional
OperatorMalaysia Airports
ServesGreater Kota Kinabalu (also West Coast and Interior divisions of Sabah)
LocationKepayan and Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Hub for
Operating base for
Time zoneMST (UTC+08:00)
Elevation AMSL10 ft / 3 m
Coordinates05°56′41″N 116°03′31″E / 5.94472°N 116.05861°E / 5.94472; 116.05861
Map
BKI /WBKK is located in Sabah
BKI /WBKK
BKI /WBKK
Location in Sabah state
BKI /WBKK is located in East Malaysia
BKI /WBKK
BKI /WBKK
Location in East Malaysia
BKI /WBKK is located in Borneo
BKI /WBKK
BKI /WBKK
Location in Borneo
BKI /WBKK is located in Malaysia
BKI /WBKK
BKI /WBKK
Location in Malaysia
BKI /WBKK is located in Southeast Asia
BKI /WBKK
BKI /WBKK
Location in Southeast Asia
Runways
Direction Length Surface
m ft
02/20 3,780 12,402 Asphalt
Statistics (2018)
Passengers8,622,488 (Increase 7.7%)
Airfreight (tonnes)28,039 (Increase 2.4%)
Aircraft movements79,044 (Increase 7.9%)
Source: official web site[1]
AIP Malaysia[2]

Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) (IATA: BKI, ICAO: WBKK) is an international airport in Kota Kinabalu, the state capital of Sabah, Malaysia. It is located approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) southwest of the city centre. In 2019, over 9 million passengers passed through the airport, making it the second busiest airport in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur International Airport in terms of passenger movements & aircraft movements and the third busiest in terms of cargo handled.

Being the main gateway into East Malaysia, the airport serves as the main hub for MASwings, and the secondary hub for Firefly[3][4] & Malaysia Airlines. The airport is also AirAsia Malaysia second largest hub in Malaysia[5] after KLIA 2. Another Malaysia based low-cost carrier, MYAirline, also announce plans to utilize this airport as its secondary hub.[6] However, the plan did not materialize as the airline faces a financial crisis in October 2023.[7] Other general aviation companies such as Sabah Air Aviation, Sabah Flying Club, Sazma Aviation & Layang Layang Aerospace had set up their main base here.

Batik Air Malaysia (formerly known as Malindo Air), will re-activate Kota Kinabalu International Airport as its secondary hub soon. Currently, the airline only operates chartered flight from Kota Kinabalu and mainly focuses its operation in KLIA & Subang Airport.

History

Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

The airport began as a military airfield built by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.[8] It was then known as Jesselton Airfield (Kota Kinabalu was known as Jesselton at the time). Towards the end of the war, it suffered severe bombings by Allied Forces.[9] After the war, the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) of North Borneo (now Sabah) took over the operation and maintenance of the airport.

Regular passenger service commenced in May 1949, with a weekly Malayan Airways flight from Singapore, via Kuching and Labuan; the route was extended to Sandakan in September 1949.[10] By 1950, the airport served as a stopover for a biweekly flights between Hong Kong and Labuan, via Manila and Sandakan operated by Cathay Pacific.[11][12] The domestic air service was further developed by Sabah Airways Limited (later known as Borneo Airways) in 1953, connecting the town to Sandakan, Kudat, Ranau, Keningau and Tawau.[13]

By 1957, the original grass strip runway was resurfaced with bitumen material and a new terminal was built.[8] In 1959, the runway had been extended to 1,593 metres to enable the operation of Malayan Airways' turboprop Viscount aircraft.

By 1963, the runway was further reinforced and lengthened to 1,921 meters to cater for Malaysian Airways Comet 4 jet operations. Commercial flights and passenger arrivals gradually increased and a larger terminal building was needed. By 1967, Cathay Pacific operated a twice-weekly Convair 880 jet service between the airport and Hong Kong with an intermediate stop in Manila.[14]

In 1969, a British consultancy firm was appointed to formulate a Master Plan for a phased and organised development of KKIA over the next few decades.[citation needed] The master plan was submitted to the government with recommendations to:

In the 1970s and 1980s, a new terminal building was built on the other side of the runway from the original terminal. Almost all commercial flights were shifted to this newer and larger terminal. Subsequently, the original terminal became known as the Airport Lama ("Old Airport"). In 1992, the DCA of Sabah was corporatised and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad took over the management and operations of the airport.[8] A further expansion project for both terminals began in 2006, and in January 2007 the original terminal was rebranded Terminal 2 whilst the newer terminal became known as Terminal 1.

Schematic map of the airport.

In mid-2005, the Malaysian federal government approved major renovation and refurbishment works to the main terminal (Terminal 1) as well as a runway expansion project worth RM1.4 billion. The project saw the runway extended from 2,988 m (9,803 ft) to 3,780 m (12,402 ft) and the size of the main terminal increased from 34,000 m2 (370,000 sq ft) to 87,000 m2 (940,000 sq ft). Terminal 1 can accommodate four Boeing 747s, one Airbus A330, seven Boeing 737s, three Fokker 50s and three Dorniers at any given time. It has 12 jetways for passenger use.[15][16] The air traffic control tower, which had hitherto been attached to Terminal 1, was demolished and replaced by a stand-alone tower. Due to delays in upgrade works and disputes between the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia and the contractor responsible for the project, the runway extension and upgrading of the ILS (Instrument Landing System) was delayed to Q1 2014.[17]

As a result of this expansion, the airport is now able to accommodate the world's largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380. It has also become the second largest airport in Malaysia, with an annual capacity of 12 million passengers – 9 million for Terminal 1 and 3 million for Terminal 2.[18]

As a major economic and leisure hub in Malaysian Borneo, past operators at the airport include Air Macau, Airphil Express, Australian Airlines, Cathay Dragon, Cathay Pacific, China Northern Airlines, Dragonair, Far Eastern Air Transport, Fly Asian Xpress, HK Express, Korean Air, Lucky Air, Mandarin Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Jetstar Asia Airways, Shenzhen Airlines, SilkAir, Singapore Airlines, South East Asian Airlines, South Phoenix Airways, Thai AirAsia, Thai Airways International, Thai Smile, Tiger Airways, TransAsia Airways, Uni Air, Vladivostok Air, Wings Air and XiamenAir.

Terminal 2 was closed on 1 December 2015 and all airlines shifted their operations to Terminal 1.[19] There are plans to use Terminal 2 for cargo operations and general aviation.[20]

Expansion and renovation

In July 2023, Malaysia Airports Sdn Bhd (MASB) has allocated RM8.4mil for a small facelift program. The facelift involves improving the public toilets at the terminal while the rest involves resurfacing the runway and upgrading of the commercial lots as well as the public address (PA) system.[21]

In early October 2023, the Transport Minister of Malaysia, Anthony Loke said that Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) has long-term plans to expand the existing Kota Kinabalu International Airport to accommodate the expected increase in passengers from 9 million to 15.4 million annually. In a written parliamentary reply to a question submitted by Shafie Apdal, Loke stated that the Transport Ministry will review and consider the acquisition of land adjacent to the existing airport as part of the 12th Malaysia Plan.[22] Currently developers and architecture companies are on the masterplanning phase for this project.[23]

As of Q1 2024, Malaysia Airports has presented an action plan for the expansion of the airport. The timeline will take three years and will be split into 2 phases.[24]

The future expansion includes the extension of the International terminal building area with 1 additional gate, construction of additional aircraft bays, Multi level carpark, rework of landside and airside facilities. As a result Terminal 1's capacity will be increased from 10 million passengers per annum (mmpa) to 12 mmpa with the capability to handle 33 aircraft at any given time.

Proposed relocation to Kimanis

For the proposed airport in Kimanis, see KKIA@Kimanis.

In June 2022, a MOU was signed by Berjaya Land with Sabah state-owned strategic investment arm, Qhazanah Sabah Bhd to explore the possibility of relocating Kota Kinabalu International Airport to Kimanis (KKIA@Kimanis), approximately 60 kilometres from downtown Kota Kinabalu.[25][26]

In July 2023, the chairman of the state-owned strategic investment arm, Qhazanah Sabah Berhad, Yusof Yacob, claimed that representatives from the state investment arm had presented a feasibility study on the relocation of the airport to the Sabah Economic Planning Unit (EPU) and had met with Transport Ministry personnel about the proposal. The outcome was purportedly positive. He added that it would be up to the State Cabinet to approve the plans.[27]

The relocation would develop an area of 6,070.5 hectares. Out of the total area, 2,023.5 hectares was for the airport while the remaining for supporting services, a new airport city, industrial and residential areas. It would also include expansion programmes for Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) for the Aeronautics or aeroplane related industry the aviation training centre.[28]

Criticisms

The proposal to relocate the airport to Kimanis is deeply unpopular and has received universal criticism from the people of Sabah, transportation industry experts as well as politicians from across the political spectrum. The main criticisms include:

As there is no data and no cogent reasons to support the claim that Kota Kinabalu requires a new airport, there is a strong public sentiment that the construction of a new airport would be an unnecessary waste of funds and that the new airport would end up being a white elephant.[30]

In terms of the political response, UMNO and Parti Warisan Sabah have both objected to the proposed new airport. The Member of Parliament for Kota Kinabalu, Chan Foong Hin, has also raised suspicions regarding the appointment of Berjaya Land to conduct the feasibility study, stating that Qhazanah Sabah has awarded many project contracts to Berjaya Land seemingly without an open tender being conducted.[33]

Currently, the relocation project is put on hold and will likely only be discussed again after the year of 2030. The idea was also supported by the Chief Minister of Sabah citing upgrading and fine tuning the current airport site as being the priority concern for the state for the time being.[34]

Terminals

Check-in counters, Terminal 1.
Widebody gate view of terminal 1
Airbus A330-300 at Kota Kinabalu International Airport
View from the apron

Terminal 1

Terminal 1 is the newer and the main terminal of KKIA. It can be accessed via Jalan Kepayan, Jalan Lintas and Jalan Putatan located in the suburb or township of Kepayan. The terminal is capable of handling 9 million passengers per annum and is equipped with the following facilities:

The Departure Hall column head design is inspired by the 'Wakid' basket design. A 'Wakid' is, in Sabahan tradition, a symbol of preparing for a meaningful journey. Some ethnic patterns of the Rungus and Bajau ethnic groups are also incorporated into the design of the floor tiles.

The first flight to depart at the new wing was MH2637 to Kuala Lumpur at 06:50 while the last flight at the old wing was at 00:25. Malaysia Airlines is the main operating airline in this terminal.[35]

Generally, flights operating into and out of KKIA Terminal 1 are serviced by narrow-body aircraft. However, during peak travel periods, airlines such as Malaysia Airlines,[36] Airasia,[37] Batik Air Malaysia[38] and Jin Air[39] will upgrade their equipment to widebody aircraft such as the Airbus A330-300 and Boeing 777-200.

Additionally, KKIA was the first airport in Malaysia to welcome the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, operated by Royal Brunei during several product introductory flights in November 2013.[40] As to date, the largest aircraft to have utilize the terminal are the B777-300ER[41] and Airbus A350 XWB.[42]

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, KKIA experienced issues during peak periods where aircraft parking is limited. A temporary workaround by Malaysian Airports was the introduction of a few new aircraft remote bays situated beside the MASkargo hangar. The remote bay allows either 3 additional narrowbody aircraft or 1 widebody and 1 narrowbody aircraft at any given time. Also introduced was the revision on current turboprop aircraft to narrowbody jet parking to allow more B737/A320 aircraft.[43] The remote bay construction has been completed in August 2022 which mostly use by freighter airlines.

Terminal 2

Antonov-124 at Terminal 2

Terminal 2 was the original terminal building of the airport when it was first built. It is accessed via Jalan Mat Salleh in Tanjung Aru and is located on the other side of the runway from Terminal 1. Terminal 2 served charter and low-cost carriers, the main airline utilizing the terminal being AirAsia.

In 2006, Terminal 2 underwent a major renovation and extension to accommodate low-cost carriers, reopening on 1 January 2007 in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007. The works were completed 27 months ahead of schedule. It had 26 check-in counters for domestic and international flights and 9 parking bays capable for narrow-body aircraft as well as 7 luggage x-ray machines, a VIP room and 13 immigration counters. The terminal had the capacity to handle 3 million passengers annually.[18]

However, with limited expansion space and the congestion at Terminal 2, as well as to consolidate all airlines operations in one terminal, airlines at Terminal 2 was ordered to move to Terminal 1. The decision was opposed by AirAsia, and the airline refused to move despite a government directive to do so, missing the deadline five times as of 1 August 2015.[44] The issue was resolved when AirAsia agreed to move to Terminal 1 on 1 December 2015, and Terminal 2 was closed at midnight that day.[19] The terminal will be converted for cargo, charter, VIP flights and general aviation use.[20]

The Terminal currently serves for cargo operators such as Raya Airways and several General Aviation companies such as Weststar and Layang-Layang. Recently, during a state event with many VIP's in attendance, private jets on charter were moved to Terminal 2 to avoid congestion aircraft parking bays on Terminal 1. This includes a Boeing BBJ2 and Boeing 747-8(BBJ).[45][46]

Airlines and destinations

Passenger

AirlinesDestinations
AirAsia Beijing–Daxing,[47] Bintulu, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Johor Bahru,[48] Kota Bharu, Kuala Lumpur–International, Kuching, Macau, Miri, Penang (resumes 31 March 2024), Sandakan, Seoul–Incheon (begins 4 March 2024),[5] Shenzhen, Sibu, Singapore, Shanghai–Pudong,[49] Taipei–Taoyuan, Tawau, Wuhan
AirAsia X Seasonal: Kuala Lumpur–International[50]
Air Busan Busan[51]
Asiana Airlines Seasonal: Seoul–Incheon[52]
Batik Air Malaysia Kuala Lumpur–International
Seasonal Charter: Chengdu–Tianfu[53]
Cebu Pacific Manila
China Southern Airlines Guangzhou
Firefly Kuching, Miri, Penang, Sandakan, Tawau[54]
Indonesia AirAsia Jakarta–Soekarno-Hatta[55]
Jeju Air Seoul–Incheon
Jin Air Seoul–Incheon
Seasonal: Busan
Malaysia Airlines Kuala Lumpur–International, Taipei–Taoyuan,[56] Tokyo–Narita[57]
MASwings Labuan, Lahad Datu, Lawas, Limbang, Mulu
Philippines AirAsia Manila
Royal Brunei Airlines Bandar Seri Begawan
Scoot Singapore[58]
Shanghai Airlines Shanghai–Pudong[59]
T'way Air Seoul–Incheon[60]
Seasonal Charter: Jeju[61]

Cargo

AirlinesDestinations
Teleport operated by AirAsia Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur–International[62]
MASkargo Bandar Seri Begawan, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur–International, Labuan
Raya Airways Kuala Lumpur–International, Kuala Lumpur–Subang
SF Airlines Shenzhen
World Cargo Airlines Kuala Lumpur–International, Macau, Miri
Kargo Xpress[63] Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur–International, Shenzhen

Traffic and statistics

Traffic

Graphs are unavailable due to technical issues. There is more info on Phabricator and on MediaWiki.org.
Annual passenger traffic at BKI airport. See Wikidata query.
Annual passenger numbers and aircraft statistics
Year Passengers
handled
Passenger
% Change
Cargo
(tonnes)
Cargo
% Change
Aircraft
Movements
Aircraft
% Change
1994 2,096,241 Steady 24,270 Steady 40,608 Steady
1995 2,554,181 Increase 21.8 29,537 Increase 21.7 43,882 Increase 8.0
1996 2,622,190 Increase 2.7 23,099 Decrease 21.8 45,726 Increase 4.2
1997 2,732,146 Increase 4.2 37,203 Increase 61.1 49,148 Increase 7.5
1998 2,393,431 Decrease 12.9 27,942 Decrease 24.9 38,716 Decrease 21.2
1999 2,752,207 Increase 15.0 27,087 Decrease 3.1 40,634 Increase 5.0
2000 3,092,326 Increase 12.3 27,347 Increase 1.0 41,411 Increase 2.0
2001 3,036,196 Decrease 1.8 24,887 Decrease 9.0 40,157 Decrease 3.0
2002 3,256,212 Increase 7.2 28,112 Increase 13.0 44,528 Increase 10.9
2003 3,302,366 Increase 1.4 25,638 Decrease 8.8 44,748 Increase 0.5
2004 3,918,201 Increase 18.6 27,191 Increase 6.1 52,352 Increase 17.0
2005 3,975,136 Increase 1.4 25,473 Decrease 6.3 51,824 Decrease 1.0
2006 4,015,221 Increase 1.0 28,356 Increase 11.3 52,055 Increase 0.4
2007 4,399,939 Increase 9.6 35,638 Increase 25.7 52,047 Decrease 0.01
2008 4,689,164 Increase 6.6 34,532 Decrease 3.1 54,317 Increase 4.4
2009 4,868,526 Increase 3.8 25,079 Decrease 27.4 53,554 Decrease 1.4
2010 5,223,454 Increase 7.3 26,733 Increase 6.6 55,241 Increase 3.2
2011 5,808,639 Increase 11.2 28,534 Increase 6.7 59,638 Increase 8.0
2012 5,848,135 Increase 0.7 23,563 Decrease 17.4 58,366 Decrease 2.1
2013 6,929,692 Increase 18.5 21,922 Decrease 7.0 67,601 Increase 15.8
2014 6,792,968 Decrease 2.1 23,769 Increase 8.4 73,074 Increase 8.1
2015 6,573,461 Decrease 3.2 24,768 Increase 4.2 71,209 Decrease 2.6
2016 7,263,339 Increase 10.5 28,764 Increase 16.1 70,138 Decrease 1.5
2017 8,006,446 Increase 10.2 27,372 Decrease 4.8 73,237 Increase 4.4
2018 8,622,488 Increase 7.7 28,039 Increase 2.4 79,044 Increase 7.9
2019 9,445,494 Increase 9.5 28,664 Increase 2.2 83,580 Increase 5.7
2020 2,302,514 Decrease 75.6 41,724 Increase 45.6 32,081 Decrease 61.6
Source: Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad[64]

Statistics

Busiest Flights Out of Kota Kinabalu International Airport by Frequency as of July 2019
Rank Destination Frequency
(Weekly)
1 Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur 208
2 Sabah Tawau 71
3 Sabah Sandakan 53
4 South Korea Seoul 42
5 Sarawak Kuching 39
6 Sabah Lahad Datu 35
7 Labuan Labuan 28
8 Johor Johor Bahru 21
8 Singapore Singapore 21
8 China Guangzhou 21
8 Brunei Bandar Seri Begawan 21

Accidents and incidents

See also

References

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