Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Kuching to get more air linkages with completion of airport

KUCHING - The Transport Ministry will work closely with the Sarawak government to get more air linkages upon the completion of upgrading works on the Kuching International Airport (KIA), which has the capacity to handle five million passengers annually.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said Monday the RM620 million-project, including the new wing of the terminal building and runaway extension, was scheduled for completion by March 2008.

"At present the airport (KIA), which is meant to handle only an annual passenger volume of three million, is already very congested, with 3.4 million using it last year," he told reporters after launching the operational transfer of KIA's new wing, which is expected to be completed by April this year, several months ahead of schedule.

Those present included Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Alfred Jabu, who is also State Infrastructure Development and Communications Minister, Regional and Rural Development Minister Datuk Aziz Shamsuddin and businessman Tan Sri Ting Pek Khiing, adviser for Global Upline Sdn Bhd, the turnkey contractor.

Chan said the federal government would assist the state's efforts to develop its economy, including the tourism industry, by attracting additional air linkages at the various gateways throughout Sarawak.

At present, he said, SilkAir has been operating in Sarawak since last year with four Kuching-Singapore direct flights weekly, via a Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines code-sharing basis.

He said up to 5.3 million passengers annually were expected to use the upgraded KIA by 2012, making it the third largest in the country, in terms of passenger volume.

Based on statistics, this would see an anticipated increase of seven per cent every year from 3.4 million last year, he said.

He said KIA was a major gateway to Sarawak by tourists and investors by air besides being a "first impression" on the rich ethnic and cultural heritage.

The project, with the capacity to accommodate B-747 aircraft operations, is expected to provide closer link and direct connections with international destinations for the tourism and business industries, he said.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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