Malaysia Airports Holdings (MAHB) will embark on an initiative to expand and upgrade its key airports at home, as it looks to capitalise on the growing tourist boom in Southeast Asia.

In an interview with FlightGlobal at World Routes in Barcelona, MAHB's managing director Badlisham Ghazali said that Langkawi airport would have an upgraded terminal with an annual capacity of four million passengers, up from the current 1.5 million.

In addition, the Kota Bahru, Penang, Kuching and Kota Kinnabalu airports will also undergo an expansion and upgrading phase.

Ghazali did not go into the details of each airport's planned expansion, but says that studies are being carried out and could be completed by 2020.

He adds that the airports operator is partnering with the Malaysian government to explore establishing a brand new airport in central Malaysia, north of Kuala Lumpur, as well as in the eastern state of Sarawak.

There are also plans to expand Kuala Lumpur International airport's KLIA 1 terminal by increasing the number of aircraft contact piers. This will raise its annual passenger capacity to 30 million, from the current 25 million.

MAHB is looking to develop a satellite terminal, which will have a capacity of 10 million passengers. When added to KLIA 2 terminal's capacity of 45 million, KLIA will have a total capacity of 85 million passengers, compared with 70 million today.

Ghazali adds that KLIA has land for expansion "going into the next 40, 50 years… for four or five runways", and that MAHB's airport expansion and upgrading plan "goes hand-in-hand" with Kuala Lumpur's own decision to upgrade Malaysia's airspace management with improved air traffic control towers.

Separately, besides China and India, Ghazali says MAHB's next growth markets are the countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"ASEAN has been encouraging trade, and building tourism promotions in each country is getting a lot easier. This is not only because we are becoming closer as a region, but also because of the growing middle-income population."

Ghazali says more people are travelling for both leisure and for business within ASEAN, and that has been helped by the rise of low-cost airlines funnelling traffic from greater China and India.

He adds that MAHB has also been able to secure international flights into non-Kuala Lumpur airports, and has been seeing steady origin-to-destination growth at three particular airports: Kota Kinnabalu, Langkawi and Penang.

The airports operator's forecast was about 6.5% passenger growth in international travellers for 2017, but over the last six months, the figure has hit double digits and MAHB now a 9.5% increase for the year as a whole.

Source: Cirium Dashboard