Penang airport expansion urgently needed, says Guan Eng

Penang CM Lim Guan Eng welcomes increased frequency in direct flights to the island by international airlines, such as China Airlines and Qatar Airways.

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang International Airport (PIA) has seen a sizeable increase in passenger traffic in the first quarter of this year, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said today.

Citing statistics from Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB), Lim said that in the first three months of this year, passenger traffic at the airport was at 1.85 million.

“This is an increase of almost 7% from the same period last year, at 1.73 million passengers.

“Most of this is due to a massive increase in the number of international passengers,” he told reporters here today.

Lim then urged the federal government to expedite the expansion of the airport for the good of all visitors to Penang, as well as Penangites.

“Regardless of who wins or loses in the upcoming general election, it is the responsibility of the central government to expand the airport.”

Meanwhile, MAHB found that domestic growth at PIA has been minimal with a mere 0.4% increase, from 1.022 million passengers in the first quarter of last year to 1.026 million passengers in the same period this year.

This compares with a growth of 16% in the number of international passengers arriving at and departing from the airport — from 706,270 in Q1 2017, compared with 821,207 passengers in Q1 2018.

Part of the reason for the sizeable growth in international passengers is the increase in the number of foreign airlines flying direct to the island.

In February, Qatar Airways commenced its service, with three flights per week between Doha and Penang. The frequency is set to increase to four times weekly from July 1.

Today, Lim announced that China Airlines will fly directly from Taipei to Penang on a daily basis, starting June 7, increasing its frequency from the previous six times weekly.

“China Airlines will fly to Penang daily non-stop, departing from Taipei at 8.10am and arriving in Penang at 12.45pm,” he said, adding that the timing will help bring more Taiwanese to Penang.

Prime Minister Najib Razak had announced a plan to upgrade the PIA in his 2018 Budget speech last October, but did not give any target date for its completion.

Najib announced that the PIA would be upgraded to enable the passenger capacity to be increased by almost double from the existing 6.5 million passengers per year to 12 million.