Kuala Lumpur International Airport
Kuala Lumpur International Airport is the primary airport servicing both its home country of Malaysia as well as most of Southeast Asia. Located 50 miles from Malaysia’s capital of Kuala Lumpur, the airport has a total area of 39 square miles, rivaling the size of many cities. On a yearly basis, it handles nearly its full passenger capacity of 35 million people, making it the 14th most visited airport in the world. A total of 600,000 metric tonnes of cargo passed through its system in 2011.
The site was built in three main phases, with the first two now complete and the third phase promising to bring the total number of runways to five, increasing the airport’s capacity to 100 million passengers per year. The airport features a Passenger Terminal Complex consisting of the Main Terminal, the Satellite Terminal and the Low Cost Carrier Terminal. The Main Terminal and its satellite building were designed with large areas of glass as well as skylights in the roof, allowing bright light and a feeling of airiness to permeate the space. A waterfall fountain, jungle boardwalk and full-size palm trees help to create a garden atmosphere indoors. Two hotels make up part of this complex, along with over half a million square feet of retail space, rivaling some shopping malls.
The project was commissioned in 1993, when prescient city planners realized the current airport servicing Kuala Lumpur would be inadequate to handle calculated numbers of future passengers. After seven years of intense, round-the-clock building effort, the new airport was officially inaugurated by Malaysia’s King Jaafar ibni Abdul Rahman in 1998. It experienced some initial setbacks with the East Asian and global financial crises as well as the SARS and bird flu epidemics. These events lowered overall passenger traffic to the region for many years. By 2005, however, the airport began to see a rise in passenger numbers finally matching past estimates.
The decision to incorporate modern logistical practices, such as bar coded boarding passes and streamlining of the baggage handling system, into airport operations greatly increased its efficiency. The airport also offers passengers a range of excellent options for how to spend their time between flights, such as massages, showers, prayer rooms, children’s play areas, shopping venues, a movie lounge and free wireless Internet.
An excellent automated passenger carrier, called the Aerotrain, ferries passengers from the Main Terminal to the Satellite Terminal, while buses routinely depart to carry passengers to the third Low Cost Carrier Terminal located nearly 13 miles from the Main Terminal. A rail link is planned to replace the system of passenger buses, although work has yet to commence on this project.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport also serves as a rail station with two lines, the KLIA Transit and the KLIA Express, both carrying passengers from the airport environs into Kuala Lumpur proper. This 35-mile journey takes approximately 28 minutes and provides a reliable, fast, and convenient way to arrive at the airport or depart for the city of Kuala Lumpur. Passengers of some airlines are also able to check their luggage for their flight as they board the train, considerably speeding up the routine airline check-in process.
Two further phases of construction are planned in order to increase the handling capacity of the airport. With the future addition of a new satellite terminal, the airport hopes to handle upwards of 100 million passengers per year. Plans are also in the works to include hiking trails, hotels, a theme park, and golf courses for use by passengers with long layovers.