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Malaysia’s Airports Observe Surge in Passenger Traffic

A Malaysia Airlines 777-200 similar to the one involved in MH370 (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) — the operator of managing 39 airports including Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s International Airport and Istanbul, Turkey’s Sabiha Gokcen International Airport — has revealed its passenger capacity for December. The airports in the two countries have reported a total of 5.35 million passengers. The airport in Malaysia has a capacity of 3.11 million passengers, while Istanbul handled 2.23 million passengers.

The international passenger movement in Malaysia has skyrocketed by 114%, thanks to the resumption of Umrah travel or Islamic pilgrimage and the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) program between Malaysia and Singapore, allowing both citizens to travel without quarantine. The domestic traffic in Malaysia also increased by 30% to 2.8 million passengers, compare to November.

In addition, MAHB has seen a 21 percent increase in aircraft movement from November to 40,147. International flights also increased by 15% to 6,582 flights. The traffic figures for December were 41.6% of pre-Covid-19 levels.

In December, Kuala Lumpur International Airport — the gateway to the country — saw a sign of recovery. Myanmar Airways resumed its services from Yangon, Myanmar, to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last month.

“Looking at the demand generated by the VTL program, as evidenced by the sold-out flights, it is obvious that such programs will be the catalyst for air travel recovery,” Dato Iskandar Mizal Mahmood, the new Managing Director of Malaysia Airports, said.

Malaysia and Singapore have been facing a setback. In response to the Omicron variant, the VTL program is suspended effective from Dec. 23 to Jan. 20.

Langkawi Travel Bubble 

However, there is not every program could make a success. Following the success of the domestic Langkawi travel bubble. Malaysia introduced the scheme to international travelers — welcoming foreigners to the tourist hotspot of the country. Due to the Omicron variant, the travel scheme fell short of attracting leisure travelers to visit Langkawi. The number of international travelers arriving in Langkawi, Malaysia since Nov. 15 was only 15% as the pre-covid levels.

“We have seen a favorable response to Scoot Air’s direct flight from Singapore to Langkawi in the earlier stage, but we are bracing for the numbers to slow down due to the Omicron scare,” Ardi Bahador, the President of Langkawi Tourist Guide Association said.

In the meantime, Malaysia is trying to reach VTL agreement with Brunei during the pandemic, allowing both citizens to the countries without quarantine. According to local media, arrivals from Brunei has plummeted 99.7% in the first half of 2021.

In addition, Malaysia is determined to avoid closing its border despite the threat of Omicron. Hajah Nancy Shukri, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture highlighted how the high vaccination rates could help leave the border open.

Meanwhile, MAHB revealed the passenger movements of Istanbul, Turkey’s Sabiha Gokcen International airport remained two million above the levels from last June As a result of the high vaccination rate and the lifting of interstate travel restrictions.


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