Guan Eng pushes for urgent expansion of Penang airport

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GEORGE TOWN: The Penang International Airport (PIA) is bursting at its seams and is in urgent need of expansion, says Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

With 7 million people expected to use the airport by the end of the year, it will be operating beyond its capacity for the second consecutive year.

It had recorded 6.7 million passengers last year. The airport is designed to handle up to 6.5 million passengers a year.

“The high number of passenger movements come as good news to Penang and also bad news for its airport.

“How is the airport to cope when the numbers keep going up? We urge the federal government to upgrade the airport immediately,” Lim told reporters in Komtar today.

He said the latest statistics showed 4.65 million passenger movements at PIA from January to August this year, with an average of about 582,000 passengers a month.

The airport’s passenger numbers have grown 8.4% compared to the same period last year, Lim said.

Lim said cargo arrivals had also seen an increase in the January to August period this year, with 3.8% growth compared with the same period last year.

He said there were no issues with cargo space or handling, but the primary cause of concern were the facilities to accommodate the increasing number of passengers at the main terminal.

The expansion of Penang’s airport and others in the country is under the purview of the federal government.

Recently, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai had said in his parliamentary reply that Putrajaya had plans to increase the current capacity of the PIA from 6.5 million passengers to 10 million by 2025.

PIA was expanded in 2012 to meet its current capacity of 6.5 million passengers. The move was supposed to cope with passenger movements up to 2020. However, the number of passengers shot up to 6.7 million last year.

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, Liow had said the request to expand the Penang airport could not be considered due to “allocation constraints experienced by the federal government”.

However in May this year, the federal government announced a new terminal building at the Sandakan Airport in Sabah worth RM80 million.

The Sandakan Airport handled 882,811 passengers last year.