Malaysia's KLIA airport to upgrade facilities to stem drop in rankings

The departure hall at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
The departure hall at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.PHOTO: NSTP

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Work on a total revamp of passenger facilities at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) will begin this year to stem its rapid drop in international rankings, says the overseeing body's top man.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) managing director Badlisham Ghazali said this was necessary to make KLIA efficient again.

KLIA was ranked 34th for 2017 compared with 24th in 2016 in the survey by Skytrax, a British-based consultancy.

Singapore's Changi notched top spot for both years.

A check with the MAHB and Skytrax websites showed that KLIA's ranking had been steadily declining over the years, down from 4th position in 2008.

However, KLIA was ranked 7th in the world for best airport staff service and tops for airport immigration service.

Datuk Badlisham said the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which was commissioned to do a study on passenger congestion at KLIA, was due to submit its report this month.

Among others, it looked at automation as one way to ease congestion at KLIA's passenger check-in, security clearance and Immigration/Customs checkpoints.

Adding more boarding gates and introducing remote parking for aircraft with passengers moved to terminals in buses was also part of the study.

Badlisham estimated work to upgrade the country's main airport would take two years.

"We are already aware of a few things we can do, so it's not like we are only waiting for the recommendations. But we would like the full report to be ready, he told The Star on Sunday (Dec 31).

"This is not just about improving efficiency ... a total revamp is being planned," he said.

Badlisham said there were several surveys that ranked airport service quality, but some lumped all airports together irrespective of passenger capacity.

He said others were based on just a single passenger survey in a year, with any temporary setback just before the survey was done harming the airport's annual ranking.

He said a survey which MAHB tracked closely was the Airport Service Quality (ASQ) annual report by Airports Council International (ACI), an industry body with 1,751 airports from 174 countries representing over 95 per cent of global airport traffic.

The ASQ ranking measured airport service quality based on 33 indices using data collected each month.

It compared like-sized airports, with KLIA placed in the biggest category of airports, referring to those that handle more than 40 million passengers per year.

KLIA is ranked alongside other similarly sized airports in the ASQ ranking, which included Thailand's Suvarnabhumi, Singapore's Changi and South Korea's Incheon.

Badlisham said KLIA was ranked 12th in the latest ASQ survey, down from 11th in 2016, with Incheon in first place.

"We accept that Incheon is an efficient airport which we are trying to emulate," he said.