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Sabah mulls takeover of KKIA

KOTA KINABALU (ANN/THE STAR) – Sabah is actively considering assuming control of the management of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) due to prolonged “inaction” in resolving issues plaguing the airport, according to the State Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment.

Datuk Christina Liew emphasised the need for the state government to explore taking charge, pointing out that numerous issues persist despite complaints.

She highlighted a range of problems at KKIA, encompassing inadequate attention to the airport’s lighting, air-conditioning, toilets, baggage trolleys, carousels, and public announcement (PA) system.

Kota Kinabalu International Airport. PHOTO: THE BORNEO POST

Additionally, she noted that the designated spaces for food outlets at the airport have not been fully utilised. This lack of effective resolution has prompted Sabah’s interest in assuming management responsibilities for KKIA.

She said the proposed management takeover by a state-owned company or a government-linked company (GLC) in order to provide more efficient and effective services as well as user-friendly facilities at the KKIA is urgent.

“This is only possible through a reputable airport management service provider,” she said in a statement.

Liew said that Sabah has waited too long for improvements to be made to the KKIA but to no avail.

“KKIA is the second largest airport in the country. Having an international airport with poor facilities is unacceptable,” said Liew.

She added that it is very embarrassing when thousands of tourists arrive in Sabah only to be greeted with insufficient and below par services or facilities.

“Sabah is one of the favoured destinations for domestic and international tourists in the region. We can’t wait any longer as the airport will soon reach its maximum capacity at the current rate of our tourism growth,” said Liew.

“KKIA reached its maximum capacity of nine million passengers in 2019 (pre-pandemic level),” she added.

As such, Liew said that the existing facilities are not only inadequate but also far from satisfactory, and there was an urgent need of refurbishment.

The repeated request from her ministry for upgrading works on the airport has not been handled properly,” she added.

Liew said she had brought up these pertinent issues with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor, and he agreed on the pressing need to improve the facilities in KKIA.

She then said that she hopes both the state and federal governments would follow up on calls to upgrade the present KKIA terminal, given the rising number of domestic and international visitor arrivals to Sabah.

“With improved air connectivity and increased flight frequency per week, coupled with chartered flights, we are likely to exceed the 2.2 million target set for 2023. Sabah aims to have 2.8 million visitor arrivals in 2024,” she said.

The Prime Minister during his visit to Sabah had said that the government would consider an additional terminal for KKIA though Sabah was looking at relocating the airport to either south western Kimanis or northern Tuaran area.

On the proposed relocation of the KKIA to Tuaran, Liew said that based on public feedback and travellers’ reviews, Tuaran is an ideal location by virtue of several factors.

“Tuaran is about 40 kilometres from the state capital while Kimanis (for the proposed new airport) is about 80 kilometres from Kota Kinabalu,” she said, adding that Tuaran district also had a stretch of natural beach and a five-star international resort hotel.