Kota Kinabalu International Airport

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Kota Kinabalu International Airport
Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu International Airport.jpg
Airport type Public
Owner Government of Malaysia
Operator Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad
Serves Greater Kota Kinabalu (also West Coast and Interior divisions of Sabah)
Location Kepayan and Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Hub for
Time zone MST (UTC+08:00)
Elevation AMSL 10 ft / 3 m
Coordinates 05°56′41″N 116°03′31″E / 5.94472°N 116.05861°E / 5.94472; 116.05861Coordinates: 05°56′41″N 116°03′31″E / 5.94472°N 116.05861°E / 5.94472; 116.05861
BKI is located in East Malaysia
Location in East Malaysia
Direction Length Surface
m ft
02/20 3,780 12,402 Asphalt
Statistics (2017)
Passengers 8,006,446 (Increase 10.2%)
Airfreight (tonnes) 27,372 (Decrease 4.8%)
Aircraft movements 73,237 (Increase 4.4%)
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 2017, 8 million passengers passed through the airport, making it the second busiest airport in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur International Airport. A medium-sized airport with good connections to most major aviation hubs across the Asia-Pacific region, the airport serves the city of Kota Kinabalu as well as the entire west coast of Sabah.


The airport began as a military airfield built by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.[3] 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.[4]

After the war, the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) of North Borneo (now Sabah) took over the operation and maintenance of the airport. In 1957, the original grass strip runway was resurfaced with bitumen material and a new terminal was built.[3] By 1959, the runway had been extended to 1,593 metres to enable the operation of Malayan Airways' turboprop Viscount aircraft. In 1963, the runway was further reinforced and lengthened to 1,921 meters to cater for Comet 4 jet operations. Commercial flights and passenger arrivals gradually increased and a larger terminal building was needed. By 1967, Cathay Pacific Airways had begun operating a twice-weekly Convair 880 jet service between the airport and Hong Kong with an intermediate stop in Manila.[5]

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. The master plan was submitted to the government with recommendations to:

  • reinforce and extend the runway to 2,987 metres to cater for Boeing 707 and 747 jet operations
  • build a new terminal complex and parallel taxiway connecting to the runway
  • provide navigation equipment, communication facilities and a modern light system for the runway

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.[3] 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.

Terminal 2 was closed on 1 December 2015 and all airlines shifted their operations to Terminal 1.[6] There are plans to use Terminal 2 for cargo operations and general aviation.[7]

Expansion and renovation[edit]

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.[8][9] 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.[10]

Schematic map of the airport

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.[11]

Generally, flights operating into and out of KKIA are serviced by narrow-body aircraft. However, during school holiday seasons, airlines such as Malaysia Airlines[12] may upgrade their flights to wide-body aircraft, particularly the Airbus A330-300. 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.[13] As to date, the largest aircraft to have utilize the airport are the Boeing 747-8[14] and B777-300ER.[15] Airbus A350 XWB.


Check-in counters, Terminal 1
A Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 XWB in Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

Terminal 1[edit]

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:

  • 64 check-in counters for international and domestic flights
  • 2 baggage x-ray check-in machines and 5 hand luggage x-ray machines (3 for departures, 1 for VIPs and 1 for staff)
  • 36 immigration counters (16 for departures and 20 for arrivals)
  • 6 baggage carousels
  • 3 floors (Ground floor: arrival hall, first floor: airline offices and local departures, second floor: check-in counters and domestic/foreign departures)
  • 9 aerobridges
  • 17 aircraft parking bays capable of accommodating wide and narrow body aircraft
  • 1,400 car parking bays

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 floor size at Level 1 is 24,128 square metres, Level 2 is 18,511.4 square metres and Level 3 is 22,339 square metres, providing sufficient space for all passengers.

The first flight to depart at the new wing was MH2637 to Kuala Lumpur at 0650 hours while the last flight at the old wing was at 0025 hours. Malaysia Airlines is the main operating airline in this terminal.[16]

Terminal 2[edit]

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 6 parking bays for B737 and A320 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.[11]

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.[17] 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.[6] The terminal will be converted for cargo, charter, VIP flights and general aviation use.[7]

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 B747-8i.[18]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

Air Seoul Seoul–Incheon
AirAsia Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Johor Bahru, Kota Bharu, Kuala Lumpur–International, Kuching, Macao (begins 2 November 2018),[19] Miri, Penang, Sandakan, Shenzhen, Singapore, Taipei–Taoyuan, Tawau, Wuhan
Batik Air Jakarta–Soekarno–Hatta[20]
Cebu Pacific Manila
China Eastern Airlines
operated by Shanghai Airlines
China Southern Airlines Guangzhou
Eastar Jet Seoul–Incheon
Seasonal: Busan[21]
Jeju Air Seoul–Incheon
Jin Air Seoul–Incheon
Lion Air Seasonal: Xi'an[22]
Lucky Air Kunming
Malaysia Airlines Kuala Lumpur–International, Kuching, Perth, Sandakan, Shanghai–Pudong, Taipei–Taoyuan, Tawau, Tokyo–Narita
Seasonal: Penang
Malaysia Airlines
operated by MASwings
Bintulu, Kuching, Kudat, Labuan, Lahad Datu, Lawas, Limbang, Miri, Mulu, Sandakan, Sibu, Tawau, Tarakan
Malindo Air Changsha,[23] Chengdu,[23] Guangzhou, Kuala Lumpur–International, Singapore,[24] Zhengzhou
Philippines AirAsia Manila
Royal Brunei Airlines Bandar Seri Begawan
SilkAir Singapore
Spring Airlines Shanghai–Pudong, Shenzhen
Thai AirAsia Bangkok–Don Mueang (begins 16 August 2018)[25]
Wings Air Balikpapan[26]
XiamenAir Beijing–Capital,[23] Fuzhou

Traffic and statistics[edit]


Annual passenger numbers and aircraft statistics
Year Passengers
% Change
% Change
% 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
Source: Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad[27]

Incidents and accidents[edit]

  • 6 June 1976 – A chartered Sabah Air aircraft carrying several government ministers crashed in nearby Sembulan upon descending towards the airport, killing 11 passengers including the then-Chief Minister of Sabah Tun Fuad Stephens.
  • 6 September 1991 – A private executive jet with 10 Americans and two Britons on board crashed into the jungle near Hulu Kimanis, Papar, about 50 km from Kota Kinabalu.
  • 16 November 1991 – Three policemen perished after their 11-seater Pilatus Porter Royal Malaysian Police aircraft crashed at KKIA.
    • 18 September 1993 – A 13.5 square-metre depression occurred at the edge of the runway, necessitating the airport's closure for 70 minutes.
    • 18 July 2003 – Dragonair flight 60 from Hong Kong, operated by an Airbus A330-342, encountered severe turbulence associated with Tropical Depression Koni whilst flying over the South China Sea. 12 crew members and 3 passengers were injured; of these, 2 crew members sustained serious injuries. The aircraft eventually landed safely at Hong Kong International Airport.
    • 8 November 2004 – AirAsia flight 104 operated by a Boeing 737-300 and carrying 111 passengers and five crew skidded while landing at KKIA. Three passengers – a five-year-old girl and two ladies – were injured while evacuating from the plane. They received outpatient treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kota Kinabalu.
    • 14 December 2005 – KKIA was closed for a few hours after an AirAsia plane burst a tire on landing. There were no injuries in the 10:30pm incident.
    • 25 October 2012 – The airport was closed due to malfunctioning runway lights, forcing the rescheduling or cancellation of several flights.
    • 10 October 2013 – A MASWings Twin Otter aircraft flying from Kota Kinabalu to Kudat with 16 persons on board crashed into a house at Kampung Sin San, less than 200 meters from Kudat Airport. The aircraft crashed after veering off the runway while making a second attempt to land at the airstrip in windy conditions. The co-pilot, Marc Joel Bansh (22) and passenger Tan Ah Chai (69) were killed while 14 others survived the crash.



    1. ^ "Malaysia Airports". Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
    2. ^ WBKK – KOTA KINABALU INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT at Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia
    3. ^ a b c Profile Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine., Department of Civil Aviation, Sabah. Accessed 10 April 2007.
    4. ^ "USAAF Chronology:". Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
    5. ^ timetableimages.com, Cathay Pacific 16 April 1967 system timetable
    6. ^ a b Sario, Ruben (30 November 2015). "KKIA Terminal 2 to close from midnight". The Star (Malaysia). Retrieved 1 December 2015. 
    7. ^ a b "Airasia must relocate from KKIA'S 'land-locked' terminal 2, says MAHB". The Sun Daily (Malaysia). 17 September 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2015. 
    8. ^ "Airport expansion of national interest: CM" Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine., Daily Express News, 12 April 2006.
    9. ^ Design and Build Contract – Upgrading of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport Project (Package 1 – Terminal Building and Landside Infrastructure & Facilities) Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine., WCT Engineering Berhad. Accessed 11 May 2007.
    10. ^ "KKIA to get ILS in 2014" Archived 6 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine., Malaysian Insider,
    11. ^ a b "LCC terminal ready year end" Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine., Daily Express News, 23 May 2006.
    12. ^ "Photo: 9M-MTG (CN: 1318) Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330-323 by ChinJH". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
    13. ^ "Book International Flights to Asia - Royal Brunei Airlines". Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
    14. ^ "Photo: V8-BKH (CN: 673) B747-8i by Ahmad Sallehuddin A.Sahak". Retrieved 25 January 2017. 
    15. ^ "Photo: HL8250 (CN: 37650) B777-300ER by ChinJH". Retrieved 25 January 2017. 
    16. ^ Kota Kinabalu International Airport, A-Z World Airports Online. Accessed 11 May 2007.
    17. ^ Yeong, Eva (17 September 2015). "AirAsia to stay put at KKIA Terminal 2". The Sun Daily (Malaysia). Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
    18. ^ Template:Date=17 September 2015
    19. ^ https://newsroom.airasia.com/news/airasia-strengthens-kota-kinabalu-hub-with-new-direct-route-to-macao
    21. ^ "Budget Airlines Target Niche Int'l Routes". Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
    22. ^ 2016, UBM (UK) Ltd. "Lion Air adds Xi'An scheduled charters from Aug 2016". Retrieved 18 November 2016. 
    23. ^ a b c Three more direct flights from China The Borneo Post, 2 Jan 2018
    24. ^ "Malindo Air adds scheduled Kota Kinabalu – Singapore service from August 2018". routesonline. Retrieved 24 July 2018. 
    25. ^ https://www.airasia.com/my/en/where-we-fly/flight-schedule.page
    26. ^ "Wings Air adds Balikpapan – Kota Kinabalu service from late-May 2018". Routes Online. Retrieved 11 June 2018. 
    27. ^ "MAHB Annual Report 2017" (PDF). Malaysia Airports. Retrieved 16 April 2018. 

    External links[edit]

  • Department of Civil Aviation Sabah
  • Photos taken from BKI