KLIA (www.klia.com.my) is short for "Kuala Lumpur International Airport". KLIA a brand new international airport for Malaysia about 50km away from the Kuala Lumpur city centre. It replaces the older Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah International Airport at Subang that has run out space to expand.

You can get from KLIA to Kuala Lumpur via taxis, coaches and by year 2002 via a fast train being build by ERLSB.

The design of the KLIA building was started in 1992, and construction of it was from 1994 to June 1998 when it was officially opened by Dato' Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad. It was designed by a consortium lead by the well known Japanese Architect Dr Kisho Kurokawa.

  • Pacific Consultants International
  • Kisho Kurokawa Architect & Associates
  • Akitek Jururancang (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd.
  • Ranhill Bersekutu Sdn. Bhd.
  • Sepakat Setia Perunding Sdn. Bhd.

after http://www.kisho.co.jp/WorksAndProjects/Works/klia/

The latest incarnation of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Kuala Lumpur in the original), universally referred to as "KLIA" by abbreviation-crazy Malaysians, is yet another of Dr. M's grandiose prestige projects.


Kuala Lumpur's first airport at Sungai Besi, a grassed-over former tin tailing mine, received its first international flight in 1933. While the Sungai Besi airstrip remains there to this day (albeit not in active use of any kind as far I know), in the 1960s it was supplanted by the first official Kuala Lumpur International Airport at Subang (SZB), also known as Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah International Airport, some 20 kilometers to the southwest of the city. In the 1980s, a second terminal at Subang was opened and the first terminal thoroughly renovated.

But in 1993 came two perplexing developments. First, Terminal 3 at Subang was opened; second, a new wholly government-owned company was formed to construct an entirely new airport at Sepang (KUL), some 70 kilometers to the south of Kuala Lumpur. The new airport was to feature two runways on a land area of 10,000 hectares, making it (in size) the largest aiport in the world. It would have a capacity of up to 25 million passengers per year, upgradeable to 100 million/year in the future -- more than Heathrow!

As the Subang airport was still running at less than full capacity with around 14 million passengers/year, there was clearly no pressing need for such immense expansion, but Dr. M had another target in mind: Singapore's Changi airport, the central transportation hub of South-East Asia and a lucrative money-spinner. Could Kuala Lumpur wrest away the top spot?

The airport was duly built at the staggering cost of 12 billion ringgit (around $3 billion) and opened on June 27, 1998 -- at the depth of the Asian economic crisis. Airlines like British Airways, ANA, Qantas and Lufthansa all started flights to the airport, but stopped them after a year or two due to poor profitability. As of 2002, usage is still more or less flat at around 15 million passengers/year, despite increasingly desperate incentives like waving all landing fees for 5 years for new carriers. The transportation ministry has also forced national operator Malaysian Airlines to move all its domestic flights to KLIA, which will pump up traffic volume by around two million per year but also give a significant competitive edge to private competitor Air Asia, which will for time being continue to operate from the more convenient Subang -- although it too may be has been forced to move.


All that said, while KLIA may be a financial white elephant, it's quite a nice place for the traveller and you will find pictures of the thing plastered in unlikely places like postcards, stamps and even banknotes. One of the airport's (mildly bizarre) mottoes is "airport in the jungle, jungle in the airport", which in practice means that in the international satellite building there is a giant arboretum in the center and that the unused bits of those 10,000 hectares are planted with palm trees. The rest of the construction is ultra-modern but unremarkable, all curving steel, immensely high ceilings and shades of gray. Restaurants and shops abound, signage is more than sufficient and -- thanks to running at half capacity but being staffed full -- there are absolutely no queues anywhere (with the possible/inevitable exception of immigration right after a plane lands). Domestic and Singapore flights leave from the main terminal building, while international flights leave from the satellite building, which is connected to the main terminal by a people-mover.


For the first few years of operation access was only via bus or taxi, the trip to the city taking an hour at best, but on April 14, 2002 the KLIA Ekspres high-speed train service was opened. Built by Siemens, the trains leave every 15 minutes and ferry passengers from the airport to KL Sentral in only 28 minutes at a top speed of 160 km/h. You can even check in your luggage from, and soon also to, the KL City Air Terminal (XKL) two hours before departure. Tickets are fairly pricy though at RM 35 one-way or RM 65 return; while these aren't too bad compared to express trains in other nations, for many Malaysians these are prohibitely expensive, especially when considering that Air Asia's discounted flights can go for as low as RM 60 one-way!

The KLIA Transit service, which runs along the same route but takes 10 minutes longer and stops at Malaysia's new administrative center Putrajaya/Cyberjaya and two other stations along the "Multimedia Super Corridor", was opened on June 19, 2002.


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