No plans to upgrade Tawau Airport

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Malaysia Transport Minister Anthony Loke

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government has no plans to upgrade the Tawau Airport to the status of an international airport, said Minister of Transport Anthony Loke.

“As it is, Malaysia already has six international airports namely Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA), Kuching International Airport (KIA), Pulau Pinang International Airport, Langkawi International Airport and Senai  International Airport. Other airports including the Tawau Airport play the role of a feeder to KKIA.

“Although the Tawau Airport is not categorised as an international airport, it has the capacity to handle scheduled and non-scheduled international flight operations like other airports in Melaka, Kuantan and Ipoh,” he said in a written reply to Member of Parliament for Tawau, Datuk Christina Liew at the recent parliamentary sitting here.

Liew, who is Deputy Chief Minister cum Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, wanted to know the Government’s plan to upgrade the Tawau Airport as an international airport to enable it to accommodate scheduled direct international flights, given the Sabah East Coast’s potential for development as a premier tourism destination.

Loke, however, disclosed that Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) has plans to improve and consolidate the services of the Tawau Airport through the Tawau Airport Modernisation Plan that will be implemented beginning 2019.

“Through this Plan, MAHB will, among others, upgrade the facilities at the departure hall and provide a new surau, a new toilet and an additional pre-screening machine. Besides that, MAHB also has plans to increase the passenger handling capacity from 1.5 million to 2.5
million passengers a year,” he explained.

According to the Minister of Transport, the Tawau Airport is categorised under Category Code C Airport which means it has the capability for aircraft such as Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 to conduct flights to ASEAN countries and Southern China.

Quoting MAHB, Loke said the airport operations company has provided funding for 2018 and 2019 to upgrade the facilities at the Tawau Airport (as mentioned earlier) for the convenience and comfort of passengers. “For example, the departure hall will be upgraded with an additional departure gate in tandem with the positive growth in the total number of passengers at the airport,” he said, adding that this Optimum Interim Plan is scheduled for complete implementation by December 2019.

On the long-term goal of the Tawau Airport Modernisation Plan, he said it entails optimising the area of the existing terminal building with a minimum area increase, usage of the existing area and modification of the layout plan as well as increasing the facilities to meet rising airport operation needs.

According to Loke, the terminal building will be upgraded with adoption of the concept of interior and exterior architecture that will feature the natural beauty of Sabah’s East Coast and tourism areas in Tawau.

At the same time, the Minister said, the focus will also be on the commercial segment whereby shops and retail businesses will be enlarged and upgraded for progressive commercial activities.

The potential of the cargo segment will be developed too by upgrading the cargo building to support  such activities that involve other agencies like MAS Kargo and POS Aviation.

“With this modernisation plan, the Tawau Airport is expected to accommodate passengers up to a capacity of 2.5 million a year. And this volume is estimated to be sustainable until the Year 2032,” he added.

Currently, the Tawau Airport handles 158 direct flights per week from KLIA, Senai and KKIA. Overall, Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia provide direct flight services from KLIA to the Tawau Airport with a total frequency of 49 times a week. AirAsia, MAS and MASwings provide direct
flights from KKIA to the Tawau Airport with a total frequency of 88 times a week. On top of it, international flights connecting the Tawau Airport to the Tarakan Airport in Indonesia are operated by MASwings three times a week.-pr/BNN