Monday, October 29, 2012

Kota Kinabalu International Airport runway closure tarnished Sabah’s image

KOTA KINABALU: The closure of the runway at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) inconvenienced thousands of people and affected Sabah’s image as a tourist destination, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman.

“This should not have happened. The problem should not have taken so long to fix.” He said the state cabinet expected a full report from Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd.

Musa said the authorities should make sure the problem did not happen again. It was the second time in six months that the runway had to be closed because of faulty landing lights.

The latest incident affected more than 50 flights and nearly 6,000 passengers on Thursday and Friday.

In April, the lights failed for about two hours before it was restored, affecting nine flights that had to be diverted or re-timed. Musa’s concern is understandable because tourism is one of Sabah’s main income earners, having recorded increases in arrivals annually for over a decade.

Last year, 2.84 million visitors arrived in Sabah; in 2010, the figure stood at 2.5 million, and in 2009, 2.24 million.

In the first eight months of this year, there were 1.87 million arrivals with tourism revenue valued at RM3.39 billion.

During the same period last year, the number of arrivals stood at 1.85 million. KKIA is the second busiest airport in the country. Last year, it registered nearly 60,000 flights with close to six million passengers.

Since 2005, KKIA, which has two terminals that share one runway, has undergone  a  renovation and extension worth  RM1.4 billion.

Once completed, it can handle up to 12 million passengers (nine million at Terminal 1 and three million at Terminal 2) annually.

The project includes increasing the main airport terminal building from 34,000 sq m to 87,000 sq m and extending the runway from 2.988km to 3.780km. The runway  has yet to be completed.

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