Kuching International Airport

Kuching International Airport (Initialised: KIA) (IATA: KCH, ICAO: WBGG) is an international airport serving the entire southwestern region of Sarawak, Malaysia. It is located 11 km (6.8 mi)[2] south of Kuching city centre. The airport also shares its runway with the RMAF Kuching Airbase, home to the No. 7 Squadron RMAF.[3]

Kuching International Airport

Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Kuching
Kuching International Airport at Night.jpg
Airport typeMilitary/Public
OwnerGovernment of Malaysia
OperatorMalaysia Airports Holdings Berhad
ServesKuching Division, Samarahan Division & Serian Division, Sarawak, Malaysia
LocationKuching, Sarawak, East Malaysia
Hub forAirAsia
Malaysia Airlines
Time zoneMST (UTC+08:00)
Elevation AMSL89 ft / 27 m
Coordinates01°29′13.5″N 110°20′30.9″E / 1.487083°N 110.341917°E / 1.487083; 110.341917Coordinates: 01°29′13.5″N 110°20′30.9″E / 1.487083°N 110.341917°E / 1.487083; 110.341917
Sarawak state in Malaysia
Sarawak state in Malaysia
KCH /WBGG is located in Borneo
Location in Sarawak , East Malaysia
KCH /WBGG is located in East Malaysia
KCH /WBGG (East Malaysia)
KCH /WBGG is located in Malaysia
KCH /WBGG (Malaysia)
KCH /WBGG is located in Southeast Asia
KCH /WBGG (Southeast Asia)
KCH /WBGG is located in Asia
KCH /WBGG (Asia)
Direction Length Surface
m ft
07/25 3,780 12,402 Asphalt
Statistics (2018)
Passenger5,564,722 (Increase 9.2%)
Airfreight (tonnes)26,819 (Increase 8.9%)
Aircraft movements56,876 (Increase 11.3%)
Source: official web site[1]
AIP Malaysia[2]

The airport terminal is capable of handling five million passengers per annum and it is the fourth busiest airport in Malaysia. KIA has grown rapidly with an increasing number of passengers and aircraft movement. In 2017, KIA handled 5,095,193 passengers with a corresponding volume of 51,097 flights. In the same year, 24,620 metric tonnes of cargo were handled through this facility.

KIA is the secondary hub for Malaysia Airlines and has been growing rapidly to tackle the demand of the travellers in the East Malaysia region.


An airstrip in Kuching was first constructed at 7th Mile (Bukit Stabar) in 1938, measuring 700 yards (640 m) long by 300 yards (270 m) wide.[4] An airport terminal building was later completed and opened for use on 26 September 1950.[5] The airport consisted of a small "L" shaped single storey passenger terminal, a small cargo facility, and an airport fire station. Air Traffic Control Tower, Meteorological Service and Maintenance building were clustered in one area, a small apron of 4 parking bays and a single runway which was 1,372 metres long and 46 metres wide. Navigational (Directional Finding Equipment) and Radio Aids were installed at the airport.

Kuching International Airport then became the gateway to Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo (Sabah as it is called today) with the introduction of once weekly Douglas Dakota twin-engined piston aircraft services originating from Singapore. By the end of 1954, scheduled air services into Kuching International Airport grew by leaps and bounds. This was depicted in the 1954 statistics which recorded 1,550 aircraft movements, 13,564 passengers, 95,911 kilogrammes of cargo and 25,984 mails. In 1959, the runway was extended to 1,555 metres in length to make way for Vickers Viscount turboprop aircraft operations.

In 1962, the runway was extended once more to a length of 1,921 meters to facilitate DeHavilland Comet-4 turbojet aircraft operations. The terminal was also enlarged in the same year. A Control Zone was established at Kuching in November as a part of a plan to provide an Air Traffic Control Service commensurate with the growth of air traffic. Malayan Airways Limited operated the Singapore / British Borneo Territories Regional Services with Vickers Viscount and Douglas DC-3 aircraft, daily schedules linked Kuching and Sibu with Singapore on the other side, and Brunei and Borneo on the other.

In 1971, the Malaysian Government (as Sarawak joined the Federation of Malaysia on 16 November 1963) engaged a team of Canadian Consultants to make a Master Plan study of Kuching International Airport.

In December 1972, the government accepted the Consultant's report. Among the recommendations were:

  • The extension and strengthening of existing runway to enable operations by larger jet-powered aircraft
  • The construction of a new terminal building on the north site of the runway

Work on the strengthening and extension of the runway to 2,454 metres (8,051 ft) in length started in 1973 and was completed in 1976, capable of handling Boeing 707 turbofan aircraft.

In 1980, consistent with the advent of Airbus A300B4 operations, it was imperative that the runway pavement strength be upgraded to meet the requirements of that particular aircraft. Work on this was completed in early 1982.

Construction of the terminal complex at the north site took a centre stage at the end of 1978 and was completed in July 1983. This modern terminal replaced the previous terminal, and was opened for business on 24 August 1983. The terminal complex covered a built-up area of 81 hectares with a floor space of 13,000 square metres, comprised the three-storey passenger terminal flanked by neatly planned buildings which consisted of the Air Traffic Control Tower and operations block, a larger freight facility, a new airport fire station, Maintenance Building, VIP Building and ancillary services building.

As of 1999, two foreign airlines (Singapore Airlines and Royal Brunei Airlines) from both Singapore and Brunei as well as Malaysia's national carrier and as many as 8 private general aviation companies operated scheduled services into and out of Kuching International Airport. Non-scheduled charter flights were also operated by two foreign airlines. As of 2018, however, four of Malaysia's airlines (Malaysia Airlines, MasWings, Air Asia and Malindo Air) as well as four cargo operators (Asia Cargo Express, MASKargo, Raya Airways and Neptune Air) operate to and from Kuching International Airport. They are joined by three foreign carriers (Royal Brunei Airlines, Scoot and Wings Air). In 2019, Royal Brunei, in a joint venture with Malindo Air, further connected Kuching to BWN using Malindo Air's ATR aircraft. Foreign airlines that have previously provided services to Kuching were Singapore Airlines, Dragonair, Hong Kong Airlines, Jetstar Asia, Merpati Nusantara Airlines, Silk Air, Batavia Air, Kalstar Airlines, Xpress Air and Tiger Airways. The latter returned to Kuching after merging with Scoot while Xpress Air stopped services following stiff competition from AirAsia and Wings Air on the Kuching-Pontianak route as well as Xpress Air concentrating on domestic routes due to Xpress Air's core business.

As a result of the increasing number of passengers going into and out of Kuching, a completely new and larger terminal was needed. Construction started in the early 2000s, and progressed at an incredible pace. The new terminal was literally constructed from the inside out, with the old terminal slowly being chipped away and replaced by new sections of the new terminal. The new terminal complex was finally opened on Monday, the 16th of January 2006 by the Chief Minister of Sarawak Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud and the then Malaysian Minister of Transport Dato' Sri Chan Kong Choy. The full work on the terminal, however, was only completed in April 2006. The new terminal consists of 12 aerobridge aircraft parking bays (4 bays for widebody aircraft such as Airbus A330/A350/A380-800, Boeing 747/777 and 5 bays for narrow body aircraft, principally Boeing 738/9 and A319/320), 4 remote parking bays (for turboprop aircraft such as Fokker 50, DHC-6-300/400 Twin Otter and ATR 72-500/600), plus 3 new aircraft parking bays located at the general aviation section.

Malaysia Airlines Boeing 747 on the runway
Control Tower
The Terminal Building

Expansion, renovation and redevelopmentEdit

Kuching International Airport was given a radical makeover, with the terminal completed in 2006 and the runway and taxiway extension fully completed in 2008.[6] The renovations borrowed many design features from Kuala Lumpur's then-new airport (KL International Airport opened in 1998, replacing the overcrowded Subang-Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport), so the two have a similar look.[6]

The renovation increased terminal building floor space to 46,000 square metres (500,000 sq ft) and was completed 15 months ahead of schedule. The fully renovated terminal building was officially opened by the then Prime Minister of Malaysia Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Monday, 17 April 2006. The project was handled by Global Upline Sdn. Bhd. and it cost some MYR620,000,000 (US$186,000,000). With this, the airport is capable of handling widebody aircraft such as Boeing 747-400 and Airbus A380-800 with no restrictions.

The completed works involved above ground-level (AGL) earthworks and pavement upgrades, extension of the runway length from 2454 metres to 3780 metres, widening of shoulders from 46 metres to 60 metres, extension of parallel taxiway to a full parallel taxiway with interconnection/rapid exit taxiways including widening of taxiway fillets and shoulders to 30 metres. The air-side apron works included the construction of a cargo apron, high-intensity lightings and markings. Visual and non-visual aids will be upgraded and/or relocated consistent with the upgrading plan to serve the extended runway. With nine gates, the airport can handle six narrow body aircraft (such as Boeing 737 and Airbus A320), three widebody aircraft and four turboprop aircraft. Of note, gate number 9 was specifically constructed for Airbus A380-800 operations.[7][8]

Present and futureEdit

The former Chief Minister of Sarawak, Pehin Sri Haji Abdul Taib Mahmud, wishes to attract more foreign airlines to KIA so as to develop the Sarawak Tourism Industry. Singapore's budget airline, Tiger Airways, had been given the green light to serve Kuching International Airport (the airline has since discontinued service to Kuching after only a few years, as did its closest competitor, Jetstar Asia).

As of 2006, Malaysia Airlines in Kuching International Airport has so far achieved a zero accident rate.[9]

The Sarawak Government is working closely with Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia to rationalise long-haul flights. Sarawak hopes to use Brunei and Singapore as entry points to enhance the two prevailing gateways – Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) and Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA).

The Sarawak Government has expressed interest to buy into MASwings and turn it into a sub-ASEAN air carrier, with Kuching as its hub. New routes could include direct flights to Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Jakarta, Denpasar, Bangkok and destinations in Australia. Flight frequency to Singapore would also be increased.[10]

The head office of Hornbill Skyways is in North Pan Hangar at Kuching International Airport.[11]

Airlines and destinationsEdit

KIA Arrival Hall


AirAsia Bintulu, Johor Bahru, Kota Bharu, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur–International, Miri, Penang, Pontianak, Sibu, Singapore
Malaysia Airlines Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur–International, Miri, Singapore
Seasonal: Penang
Malaysia Airlines
operated by MASwings
Limbang, Mukah, Mulu, Tanjung Manis
Malindo Air Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur–International
Seasonal: Haikou
RB Link
operated by Malindo Air
Bandar Seri Begawan[12]
Scoot Singapore[13]
Wings Air Pontianak[14]


Asia Cargo Express Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur–International
MASkargo Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur–International, Labuan, Manila, Shanghai–Pudong, Taipei–Taoyuan
Neptune Air Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur–International
Raya Airways Kuala Lumpur–Subang

Traffic and statisticsEdit


Annual passenger numbers and aircraft statistics
% change
% Change
% change
2003 2,923,633   26,278   42,138  
2004 3,317,879   13.5 26,073   0.8 45,340   7.6
2005 3,354,973   1.1 28,407   8.9 43,253   4.0
2006 3,196,352   4.7 29,716   4.6 40,292   7.4
2007 3,236,468   1.3 23,818   19.8 37,348   7.3
2008 3,238,614   0.07 19,166   19.5 39,188   4.9
2009 3,574,632   10.4 20,830   8.7 44,761   14.2
2010 3,684,517   3.1 26,977   29.5 46,382   3.6
2011 4,286,722   16.3 24,787   8.1 53,154   14.6
2012 4,186,523   2.3 15,811   36.2 46,727   12.1
2013 4,871,036   16.4 21,993   39.1 56,085   20.0
2014 4,852,822   0.4 28,040   27.5 53,490   4.6
2015 4,772,453   1.7 29,362   4.7 53,303   0.3
2016 4,919,677   3.1 22,500   23.4 51,855   2.7
2017 5,095,193   3.6 24,620   9.4 51,097   1.5
2018 5,564,722   9.2 26,819   8.9 56,876   11.3
Source: Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad[15]