|Located just 7km away from the city, Kota Kinabalu International Airport is easily accessible to travellers by shuttle bus or taxi. One can even walk from the airport to the town, if you have an hour or two to spare!|
However, it is more better to first understand its humble beginnings in the aviation industry about this World-Class Airport. Originally a military airfield during World War ll, Jesselton (as Kota KInabalu was formerly known) Airfield was first built by the occupying Japanese forces. Towards the end of the war, it suffered severe bombing by the Allied Forces until the eventual surrender of the Japanese Army in 1945.
Taken over and managed by the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) of North Borneo (now sabah) after the end of the the war, the original grass strip underwent its first change, being resurfaced in 1957 with a bitumen runway and a new terminal. By 1959, the runway had been extended to a length of over 1,593 metres to accommodate the operation of the Malaysia Airways Viscount aircraft. This was later followed by further reinforcement and expansion to cater for Comet 4 operations, so that by 1963, the runway was 1,921 metres long.
Malaysia Airports’ initial renovation to KKIA in 2005 involved developing the two terminals costing nearly
RM67 million (US$21.56 million), turning the original Main Terminal Building into a low-cost carrier terminal, and rebranding it as Terminal 2. Later refurbished and relaunched in February 2007, Terminal 2 now includes new check-in counters for international and domestic flights, as well as six additional aircraft parking bays with the capacity to accommodates B737s and A320s. Terminal 2 is capable of handling 3 million passengers annually.
“The need to upgrade Kota Kinabalu is essential to meet the growth of foreign tourists into Sabah. Sabah has plenty of tourism products to offer, be it the sea, the beaches or the mountains, and for tourists to get access to what the state has to offer, they have to come through the gateway: Kota Kinabalu.”
In line with the tourism growth in Sabah, both the local full of service airline (MAS) and low cost carrier (AirAsia) have planned to increase their fleet capacity to cater for the aggressive traffic forecast. As such, Terminal 1’s expansion was embarked on with foresight of providing a permanent solution for the anticipated fleet and traffic growth over the next 10 to 20 years, while maintaining a high comfort level for passengers.
With an expenditure of RM1.4 billion (US$356 million), the renovation is now set to mould Kota Kinabalu International Airport into a lifestyle destination, as well as to expand its entire current surface area of 63,345 square metres to an astounding 104,000 square metres within the next year a vast 46,000 square metre difference. The first major changes will include a configuration of 12 aerobridges for faster access for passengers. The airport will also showcase open concept shopping, high-end boutiques and family oriented areas.
The initial phase of Terminal 1’s renovation introduced a myriad of shopping and dining outlets. This included cafes and restaurants such as Asian Delights, Starbucks Coffee and McDonald’s as well as retailers offering products such as duty free goods, chocolates and confectionery, perfumes and cosmetics, accessories, books and magazines, gifts and souvenirs, handicrafts and even dried and frozen seafood.