Sabah must build a new international airport before congestion becomes a serious problem at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA).
State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the state government was also facing another critical situation as KKIA is reaching its maximum capacity of 9 million passengers.
"Last year, we recorded a 7.9 million arrival and looking at the trend now, we will be getting more and more tourists so we need to find a solution fast on how to handle the surge in visitors if it reaches the maximum capacity" he said during a gathering with ministry staff.
KKIA is positioned to tap into a market of 139.4 million potential visitors within a three- to six-hour flight radius. On top of this, another 34.5 million international visitors pass through major aviation hubs like Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.
The airport now services 180 international direct flights a week, with AirAsia currently holding 49pc market share, followed by Malaysia Airlines with 36pc, other airlines (11pc) and Malindo Air (4pc).
According to Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Sabah chairman Ramli Amir, the plan is to focus on building a new international airport and commence working on it with the remaining time available.
"It will take at least two to three years for the Sabah government to find suitable land and another three years to build the airport, so it would be on time for operation by 2025," he said, adding that there was not much room for KKIA to expand, given its proximity to the coastline.
Meanwhile, any attempted land reclamation at the KKIA site may jeopardise another adjacent mega-project: the Tanjung Aru Eco Development (TAED). The sites share the same beach front.
Among the suggestions include the expansion of the airport until the seafront, to build a new airport in Kimanis, to divert airlines and tourists to the east coast such as Sandakan and Tawau, as well as reopening the shutdown KKIA Terminal II.
Sources extracted from The Star Online and New Sabah Times