GEORGE TOWN: The Penang International Airport’s (PIA) passenger numbers are expected to exceed seven million this year.
The airport, therefore, ran the risk of turning into a “pasar malam” if no expansion project was undertaken, Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said.
He repeated his call to the federal government to urgently expand the airport, as the current design could only take 6.5 million passengers.
“From January to May this year, arrivals went up by 8.7% compared with the same period last year. Last year we had 6.7 million passengers.
“We are definitely going to exceed seven million passengers this year. If we do not embark on an expansion soon, we risk turning our airport into a pasar malam (night market),” he told reporters today, quoting statistics from airport operator Malaysia Airports Berhad (MAB).
The PIA was last upgraded in 2012 and the capacity of 6.5 million passengers was projected to last until 2020.
PIA is the second busiest airport in the country after the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, with Kota Kinabalu International Airport taking third place.
Last November, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai had said the request to expand the Penang airport could not be considered due to “allocation constraints experienced by the federal government”.
The transport ministry had applied to the government to expand the PIA during the second rolling plan of the 2017 Budget.
However, in May this year, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced a new terminal building for the Sandakan Airport worth RM80 million. There was no mention of Penang.
The Borneo Times reported him as saying the runway was a “present for the people of Sabah”.
“Although the runway project was not listed in the 11th Malaysia Plan, I have ordered the Ministry of Transportation and the Economic Planning Unit to immediately approve the project,” Najib was reported as saying.
The Sandakan Airport handled 882,811 passengers last year, MAB reported.