LOOK: World's biggest airport for budget airlines

Posted at 05/21/2014 8:31 PM | Updated as of 05/23/2014 8:41 AM

Malaysia eyes 28 million tourists this year

SEPANG, Malaysia -- Malaysia is seeking an increase in its tourist arrivals with the opening of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (klia2), the world's largest airport for budget airlines.

The construction of the airport, operated by state-linked Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), was spurred by the booming budget travel industry in the region and the need to replace the old terminal for low-cost carriers.

Klia2 senior manager for operations Raghbir Singh Bhall said the low-cost carrier terminal, which was built at a cost of RM4 billion (around P54.4 billion), can handle 45 million passengers annually and has a floor space of 257,000 square meters.

Departure area of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Malaysia, the world's largest airport for low-cost carriers. Photo by Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com

After four years of construction, klia2 launched its first flight on May 2, replacing the congested Kuala Lumpur International Airport - Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (KLIA-LCCT) which has a capacity of 10 million passengers.

Raghbir said Malaysia is ready to accommodate more aircraft, with the country targeting to draw in 28 million tourists this 2014. This is significantly higher than the Philippines' tourist arrivals target of 6 million this year.

"We have the capacity to handle all these aircraft," Raghbir told reporters touring klia2, adding the airport's runways can handle 80 aircraft per hour.

The 300-meter long skybridge of Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Malaysia, the first in Asia and the third in the world. Photo by Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com

Klia2 has 80 aerobridges for its 68 gates, five of which can handle an Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger aircraft.

Aside from being the world's largest low-cost carrier terminal, klia2 also boasts of having the world's tallest air traffic control tower (98 meters). It is also the first airport in Asia to have a skybridge and a third runway.

Raghbir said klia2 has enough space for two more runways in case there is a need to expand its operations.

The 300-meter long skybridge connects klia2 Main Terminal Building and Satellite Building. Departing passengers pass through its first level while arriving ones use the top level. An Airbus A320 or other narrow-bodied Class C aircraft can pass beneath it, saving airlines fuel on a round-taxiway trip.

The terminal also has 70 immigration counters, allowing for a queuing time of less than 10 minutes per passenger. Its baggage system is also fully automated.

Klia2 is currently catering to six airlines - Malaysia's Malindo Air, the Philippines' Cebu Pacific Air, Singapore's Tiger Airways, Indonesia's Lion Air, and main tenant, AirAsia Group.

The shopping and dining level of Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 which features a high ceiling and wide walking spaces. Photo by Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com

Klia2 also prides itself of its own shopping center, which takes up 30% of the terminal's space.

There are over 200 local and international brands of restaurants and shopping outlets available in the mall. Apart from the dining and shopping outlets, also available for waiting passengers are the kids, sports and movie zones. The terminal has high ceilings, features a metallic color scheming, and has seats for passengers.

ACCESSIBILITY

For those looking to explore what Kuala Lumpur has to offer, one of the main selling points of klia2 is its accessibility to the rest of the city's capital. Klia2 offers a wide array of options for transportation.

At a cost of RM35 per ticket at the Express Rail Link (KLIA Ekspres), passengers can arrive at KL Sentral within 33 minutes.

The shopping and dining level of Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 which features a high ceiling and wide walking spaces. Photo by Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com

Little India is within walking distance from KL Sentral. Also from this station, tourists may ride the monorail to reach Bukit Bintang where souvenir shops and Chinese food stalls are available. Another good place to shop for souvenirs is the Central Market.

Those who wish to see the iconic Petronas Towers may ride the train and disembark at the KLCC station.

Meanwhile, for those with connecting flights, klia2 is only a 3-minute train ride from the country's flagship Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Klia2 also has a transportation hub for those looking to ride the bus or cab.

HICCUPS, CHALLENGES

The construction and opening of klia2 were not without hiccups.

The terminal's main tenant, AirAsia, has been vocal of its criticisms against the terminal and its management. The carrier's chief executive officer himself, Tony Fernandes, recently took to Twitter his frustrations about the way MAHB operates klia2.

AirAsia planes are seen at the tarmac of Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Malaysia, the world's largest airport for low-cost carriers. Photo by Dharel Placido, ABS-CBNnews.com

"As I have kept saying, Malaysia airports have to realise that airlines create their growth. They need to work with airlines not bully them," he said on the popular microblogging site.

"We can't use our own check-in machines, can't put our branding up. Is this partnership. To an airline that has given you all the growth."

AirAsia had also initially refused to transfer its operations to klia2, citing security concerns. It had complained of depressions on the airport's runways and taxiways.

Nonetheless, AirAsia noted that the opening of klia2 has brought great convenience for the passengers and the carrier itself in terms of expansion.

"You can see the immediate benefit by moving into a space that has a room for us to grow," said Steven Dickson, group head of AirAsia's ground and inflight operations.

AirAsia Group accounts for about 80 percent of the passengers using the newly built terminal.

Malaysia's aviation and tourism sectors have come under fire following the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which carried mostly Chinese passengers, and the abduction or several Chinese nationals who were on vacation in Borneo.

Raghbir is confident that Malaysia will be able to recover quickly from these incidents.

"The airport is full. The passengers are flying. Most of our flights from China are full. I think business is normal. On our part, you can see the traffic is all there. I think the tourism ministry will back me up," he said.