Kota Kinabalu International Airport

Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) (IATA: BKI, ICAO: WBKK) is an international airport in Kota Kinabalu, the state capital of Sabah, Malaysia. It is located approximately 8 km (5.0 mi) southwest of the city centre. In 2017, 8 million passengers passed through the airport, making it the second busiest airport in Malaysia after Kuala Lumpur International Airport and the busiest airport in Borneo island. A medium-sized airport with good connections to most major aviation hubs across the Asia-Pacific region, the airport serves the city of Kota Kinabalu as well as the entire west coast of Sabah.

Kota Kinabalu International Airport

Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Kota Kinabalu
Airport typePublic
OwnerKhazanah Nasional
OperatorMalaysia Airports
ServesGreater Kota Kinabalu (also West Coast and Interior divisions of Sabah)
LocationKepayan and Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia
Hub forMASWings
Focus city for
Time zoneMST (UTC+08:00)
Elevation AMSL10 ft / 3 m
Coordinates05°56′41″N 116°03′31″E
Location in Sabah state
Location in East Malaysia
Location in Borneo
Location in Malaysia
Location in Southeast Asia
Direction Length Surface
m ft
02/20 3,780 12,402 Asphalt
Statistics (2018)
Passengers8,622,488 ( 7.7%)
Airfreight (tonnes)28,039 ( 2.4%)
Aircraft movements79,044 ( 7.9%)
Source: official web site[1]
AIP Malaysia[2]


Kota Kinabalu International Airport.

The airport began as a military airfield built by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.[3] It was then known as Jesselton Airfield (Kota Kinabalu was known as Jesselton at the time). Towards the end of the war, it suffered severe bombings by Allied Forces.[4] After the war, the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) of North Borneo (now Sabah) took over the operation and maintenance of the airport.

Regular passenger service commenced in May 1949, with a weekly Malayan Airways flight from Singapore, via Kuching and Labuan; the route was extended to Sandakan in September 1949.[5] By 1950, the airport served as a stopover for a biweekly flights between Hong Kong and Labuan, via Manila and Sandakan operated by Cathay Pacific.[6][7] The domestic air service was further developed by Sabah Airways Limited (later known as Borneo Airways) in 1953, connecting the town to Sandakan, Kudat, Ranau, Keningau and Tawau.[8]

By 1957, the original grass strip runway was resurfaced with bitumen material and a new terminal was built.[3] In 1959, the runway had been extended to 1,593 metres to enable the operation of Malayan Airways' turboprop Viscount aircraft.

By 1963, the runway was further reinforced and lengthened to 1,921 meters to cater for Malaysian Airways Comet 4 jet operations. Commercial flights and passenger arrivals gradually increased and a larger terminal building was needed. By 1967, Cathay Pacific Airways operated a twice-weekly Convair 880 jet service between the airport and Hong Kong with an intermediate stop in Manila.[9]

In 1969, a British consultancy firm was appointed to formulate a Master Plan for a phased and organised development of KKIA over the next few decades. The master plan was submitted to the government with recommendations to:

  • reinforce and extend the runway to 2,987 metres to cater for Boeing 707 and 747 jet operations
  • build a new terminal complex and parallel taxiway connecting to the runway
  • provide navigation equipment, communication facilities and a modern light system for the runway

In the 1970s and 1980s, a new terminal building was built on the other side of the runway from the original terminal. Almost all commercial flights were shifted to this newer and larger terminal. Subsequently, the original terminal became known as the Airport Lama ("Old Airport"). In 1992, the DCA of Sabah was corporatised and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad took over the management and operations of the airport.[3] A further expansion project for both terminals began in 2006, and in January 2007 the original terminal was rebranded Terminal 2 whilst the newer terminal became known as Terminal 1.

As a major economic and leisure hub in Malaysian Borneo, past operators at the airport include Air Macau, Airphil Express, Asiana Airlines, Australian Airlines, Cathay Dragon, Cathay Pacific, China Northern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Dragonair, Far Eastern Air Transport, Fly Asian Xpress, HK Express, Indonesia AirAsia, Korean Air, Lucky Air, Mandarin Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Jetstar Asia Airways, Shanghai Airlines, Shenzhen Airlines, SilkAir, Singapore Airlines, South East Asian Airlines, South Phoenix Airways, Thai AirAsia, Thai Airways International, Thai Smile, Tiger Airways, TransAsia Airways, Uni Air, Vladivostok Air, Wings Air and Xiamen Airlines.

Terminal 2 was closed on 1 December 2015 and all airlines shifted their operations to Terminal 1.[10] There are plans to use Terminal 2 for cargo operations and general aviation.[11]

Expansion and renovation

In mid-2005, the Malaysian federal government approved major renovation and refurbishment works to the main terminal (Terminal 1) as well as a runway expansion project worth RM1.4 billion. The project saw the runway extended from 2,988 m (9,803 ft) to 3,780 m (12,402 ft) and the size of the main terminal increased from 34,000 m2 (370,000 sq ft) to 87,000 m2 (940,000 sq ft). Terminal 1 can accommodate four Boeing 747s, one Airbus A330, seven Boeing 737s, three Fokker 50s and three Dorniers at any given time. It has 12 jetways for passenger use.[12][13] The air traffic control tower, which had hitherto been attached to Terminal 1, was demolished and replaced by a stand-alone tower. Due to delays in upgrade works and disputes between the Department of Civil Aviation of Malaysia and the contractor responsible for the project, the runway extension and upgrading of the ILS (Instrument Landing System) was delayed to Q1 2014.[14]

Schematic map of the airport.

As a result of this expansion, the airport is now able to accommodate the world's largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380. It has also become the second largest airport in Malaysia, with an annual capacity of 12 million passengers – 9 million for Terminal 1 and 3 million for Terminal 2.[15]

Generally, flights operating into and out of KKIA are serviced by narrow-body aircraft. However, during school holiday seasons, airlines such as Malaysia Airlines[16] may upgrade their flights to wide-body aircraft, particularly the Airbus A330-300. Additionally, KKIA was the first airport in Malaysia to welcome the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, operated by Royal Brunei during several product introductory flights in November 2013.[17] As to date, the largest aircraft to have utilize the airport are the Boeing 747-8,[18] B777-300ER[19] and Airbus A350 XWB.[20]


Check-in counters, Terminal 1.

Terminal 1

Terminal 1 is the newer and the main terminal of KKIA. It can be accessed via Jalan Kepayan, Jalan Lintas and Jalan Putatan located in the suburb or township of Kepayan. The terminal is capable of handling 9 million passengers per annum and is equipped with the following facilities:

  • 64 check-in counters for international and domestic flights
  • 2 baggage x-ray check-in machines and 5 hand luggage x-ray machines (3 for departures, 1 for VIPs and 1 for staff)
  • 36 immigration counters (16 for departures and 20 for arrivals)
  • 6 baggage carousels
  • 3 floors (ground floor: arrival hall, first floor: airline offices and local departures, second floor: check-in counters and domestic/foreign departures)
  • 12 aerobridges(To provide jetway facilities to either 5 widebody aircraft along with 2 narrowbody aircraft or 12 narrowbody aircraft)
  • 22 aircraft parking bays capable of accommodating wide-body, narrow-body and turboprop aircraft
  • 1,400 car parking bays

The Departure Hall column head design is inspired by the 'Wakid' basket design. A 'Wakid' is, in Sabahan tradition, a symbol of preparing for a meaningful journey. Some ethnic patterns of the Rungus and Bajau ethnic groups are also incorporated into the design of the floor tiles.

The first flight to depart at the new wing was MH2637 to Kuala Lumpur at 06:50 while the last flight at the old wing was at 00:25. Malaysia Airlines is the main operating airline in this terminal.[21]

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, KKIA experienced issues during peak periods where aircraft parking is limited. A temporary workaround by Malaysian Airports was the introduction of a few new aircraft remote bays situated beside the MASkargo hangar. The remote bay allows either 3 additional narrowbody aircraft or 1 widebody and 1 narrowbody aircraft at any given time. Also introduced was the revision on current turboprop aircraft to narrowbody jet parking to allow more B737/A320 aircraft.[22] The remote bay construction has been completed and in use by August 2022.

Terminal 2

Terminal 2 was the original terminal building of the airport when it was first built. It is accessed via Jalan Mat Salleh in Tanjung Aru and is located on the other side of the runway from Terminal 1. Terminal 2 served charter and low-cost carriers, the main airline utilizing the terminal being AirAsia.

In 2006, Terminal 2 underwent a major renovation and extension to accommodate low-cost carriers, reopening on 1 January 2007 in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007. The works were completed 27 months ahead of schedule. It had 26 check-in counters for domestic and international flights and 9 parking bays capable for narrow-body aircraft as well as 7 luggage x-ray machines, a VIP room and 13 immigration counters. The terminal had the capacity to handle 3 million passengers annually.[15]

However, with limited expansion space and the congestion at Terminal 2, as well as to consolidate all airlines operations in one terminal, airlines at Terminal 2 was ordered to move to Terminal 1. The decision was opposed by AirAsia, and the airline refused to move despite a government directive to do so, missing the deadline five times as of 1 August 2015.[23] The issue was resolved when AirAsia agreed to move to Terminal 1 on 1 December 2015, and Terminal 2 was closed at midnight that day.[10] The terminal will be converted for cargo, charter, VIP flights and general aviation use.[11]

The Terminal currently serves for cargo operators such as Raya Airways and several General Aviation companies such as Weststar and Layang-Layang. Recently, during a state event with many VIP's in attendance, private jets on charter were moved to Terminal 2 to avoid congestion aircraft parking bays on Terminal 1. This includes a Boeing BBJ2 and B747-8i. [24]

Airlines and destinations


AirAsia Bangkok–Don Mueang, Bintulu, Guangzhou (resumes 10 February 2023), Hong Kong, Johor Bahru,[25] Kota Bharu, Kuala Lumpur–International, Kuching, Macau (resumes 26 March 2023), Miri, Sandakan, Shenzhen (resumes 11 February 2023), Sibu, Singapore, Taipei–Taoyuan, Tawau
AirAsia X Kuala Lumpur–International
Air Busan Busan,[26] Seoul–Incheon
Air Seoul Seoul–Incheon
Batik Air Malaysia Kuala Lumpur–International
Cebu Pacific Manila
Jeju Air Seoul–Incheon
Seasonal: Muan
Jin Air Busan,[28] Seoul–Incheon
Malaysia Airlines Kuala Lumpur–International, Kuching, Sandakan, Taipei–Taoyuan,[29] Tawau, Tokyo–Narita[30]
MASwings Kudat, Labuan, Lahad Datu, Lawas, Limbang, Mulu
MYAirline Kuala Lumpur–International[31]
Philippines AirAsia Manila
Royal Brunei Airlines Bandar Seri Begawan
Scoot Singapore[32]


MASkargo Bandar Seri Begawan, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur–International, Labuan
Seasonal: Shanghai–Pudong, Ho Chi Minh City
Raya Airways Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur–Subang
World Cargo Airlines Kuala Lumpur–International, Shenzhen, Miri
My Jet Xpress Airlines[33] Kuala Lumpur–International, Macau, Miri, Shenzhen, Tawau
Kargo Xpress[34] Kuala Lumpur–International, Hong Kong

Traffic and statistics


Annual passenger traffic at BKI airport. See Wikidata query.
Annual passenger numbers and aircraft statistics
Year Passengers
% Change
% Change
% Change
19952,554,181 21.829,537 21.743,882 8.0
19962,622,190 2.723,099 21.845,726 4.2
19972,732,146 4.237,203 61.149,148 7.5
19982,393,431 12.927,942 24.938,716 21.2
19992,752,207 15.027,087 3.140,634 5.0
20003,092,326 12.327,347 1.041,411 2.0
20013,036,196 1.824,887 9.040,157 3.0
20023,256,212 7.228,112 13.044,528 10.9
20033,302,366 1.425,638 8.844,748 0.5
20043,918,201 18.627,191 6.152,352 17.0
20053,975,136 1.425,473 6.351,824 1.0
20064,015,221 1.028,356 11.352,055 0.4
20074,399,939 9.635,638 25.752,047 0.01
20084,689,164 6.634,532 3.154,317 4.4
20094,868,526 3.825,079 27.453,554 1.4
20105,223,454 7.326,733 6.655,241 3.2
20115,808,639 11.228,534 6.759,638 8.0
20125,848,135 0.723,563 17.458,366 2.1
20136,929,692 18.521,922 7.067,601 15.8
20146,792,968 2.123,769 8.473,074 8.1
20156,573,461 3.224,768 4.271,209 2.6
20167,263,339 10.528,764 16.170,138 1.5
20178,006,446 10.227,372 4.873,237 4.4
20188,622,488 7.728,039 2.479,044 7.9
20199,445,494 9.528,664 2.283,580 5.7
20202,302,514 75.641,724 45.632,081 61.6
Source: Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad[35]


Busiest Flights Out of Kota Kinabalu International Airport by Frequency as of July 2019
1 Kuala Lumpur 208
2 Tawau 71
3 Sandakan 53
4 Seoul 42
5 Kuching 39
6 Lahad Datu 35
7 Labuan 28
8 Johor Bahru 21
8 Singapore 21
8 Guangzhou 21
8 Bandar Seri Begawan 21

Accidents and incidents

  • 6 June 1976 – A chartered Sabah Air aircraft carrying several government ministers crashed in nearby Sembulan upon descending towards the airport, killing 11 passengers including the then-Chief Minister of Sabah Tun Fuad Stephens.[36]
  • 4 September 1991 – A chartered Grumman Gulfstream II aircraft crashed into a hill while on approach to the airport, killing all 12 people on board.[37]


  1. "Malaysia Airports". Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  2. WBKK – KOTA KINABALU INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT at Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia
  3. Profile Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Department of Civil Aviation, Sabah. Accessed 10 April 2007.
  4. "USAAF Chronology". Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  5. Ivor Kraal (15 May 1949). "Singapore Skyline". NLB. The Straits Times. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  6. "Singapore Skyline". eresources.nlb.gov.sg/. The Straits Times. 14 May 1949. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  7. Colonial Reports - North Borneo 1951. London: Her Majesty Stationery Office. 1951. p. 77.
  8. Colonial Reports - North Borneo 1953 (PDF). London: Her Majesty Stationery Office. 1954. p. 127.
  9. timetableimages.com, Cathay Pacific 16 April 1967 system timetable
  10. Sario, Ruben (30 November 2015). "KKIA Terminal 2 to close from midnight". The Star (Malaysia). Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  11. "Airasia must relocate from KKIA'S 'land-locked' terminal 2, says MAHB". The Sun Daily (Malaysia). 17 September 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  12. "Airport expansion of national interest: CM" Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Daily Express News, 12 April 2006.
  13. Design and Build Contract – Upgrading of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport Project (Package 1 – Terminal Building and Landside Infrastructure & Facilities) Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, WCT Engineering Berhad. Accessed 11 May 2007.
  14. "KKIA to get ILS in 2014" Archived 6 August 2013 at the Wayback Machine, Malaysian Insider,
  15. "LCC terminal ready year end" Archived 26 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Daily Express News, 23 May 2006.
  16. "Photo: 9M-MTG (CN: 1318) Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330-323 by ChinJH". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  17. "Book International Flights to Asia - Royal Brunei Airlines". Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  18. "Photo: V8-BKH (CN: 673) B747-8i by Ahmad Sallehuddin A.Sahak". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  19. "Photo: HL8250 (CN: 37650) B777-300ER by ChinJH". Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  20. "MAS Airbus A350 conducts test flight to KKIA". The Borneo Post. 10 January 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  21. Kota Kinabalu International Airport, A-Z World Airports Online. Accessed 11 May 2007.
  23. Yeong, Eva (17 September 2015). "AirAsia to stay put at KKIA Terminal 2". The Sun Daily (Malaysia). Retrieved 13 August 2015.
  24. "Sultan Johor, Brunei antara tetamu majlis perkahwinan anak KM Sabah". Berita Harian (Malaysia). 17 September 2015. Retrieved 25 January 2017.
  25. "Johor route for AirAsia".
  26. "Air Busan schedules Kota Kinabalu service from May 2019". Routesonline.
  27. "Firefly reinstates jet ops from Penang with direct flights to Johor Bahru, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu". TheEdgeMarkets. 17 February 2022.
  28. "진에어, 부산~코타키나발루 노선 신규 취항" [Jin Air, launches Busan~Kota Kinabalu route]. Financial News (in Korean). 11 November 2022.
  29. "Malaysia Airlines NW22 Kota Kinabalu – Taipei Schedule Changes". AeroRoutes. 25 November 2022. Retrieved 25 November 2022.
  30. "Malaysia Airlines Resumes Kota Kinabalu – Tokyo Service in late-Dec 2022". Aeroroutes. 17 November 2022.
  31. "MYAirline debuts key domestic routes". ARGS. 25 November 2022. Retrieved 25 November 2022.
  32. Lim, Sean (22 November 2018). "Frequent fliers on some SilkAir routes will soon have to fly Scoot, SIA announces ahead of merger". businessinsider.sg. Archived from the original on 30 October 2019. Retrieved 30 October 2019.
  33. "MyJet Express tambah 2 pesawat".
  34. "Malaysia's Kargo Xpress outlines fleet growth plans".
  35. "Malaysia Airports: Airports Statistics 2020" (PDF). malaysiaairports. 2 April 2021. Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 August 2019. Retrieved 5 October 2021.
  36. Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident GAF Nomad N.22B 9M-ATZ Kota Kinabalu Airport (BKI)". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  37. Ranter, Harro. "ASN Aircraft accident Grumman American G-1159 Gulfstream II N204C Kota Kinabalu". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
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