Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) (Malay: Lapangan Terbang Antarabangsa Kuala Lumpur) (IATA: KUL, ICAO: WMKK) is Malaysia’s main international airport and one of the major airports in Southeast Asia and worldwide. It is located in Sepang District of Selangor, approximately 45 kilometres (28 mi) south of Kuala Lumpurcity centre and serves the Greater Klang Valley conurbation.
KLIA is the largest and busiest airport in Malaysia. In 2017, it handled 58,554,627 passengers and 710,186 tonnes of cargo. It is the world’s 23rd-busiest airport by total passenger traffic.
The ground breaking ceremony for Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) took place on 1 June 1993 when the government under Mahathir Mohamad decided that the existing Kuala Lumpur airport, then known as Subang International Airport (now Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport) could not handle future demand. The construction of the airport was done mainly by a few state owned construction companies as well as Ekovest Berhad – helmed by Tan Sri Datuk Lim Kang Hoo. It was created as part of the Multimedia Super Corridor, a grand development plan for Malaysia. The chief architect who designed the new airport terminal was the Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa.
Upon KLIA’s completion, Subang Airport’s Terminal 1 building was demolished. Malaysia Airports agreed to redevelop the remaining Terminal 3 to create a specialist airport for turboprop and charter planes surrounded by a residential area and a business park. The IATA airport code KUL was transferred from Subang Airport, which currently handles only turboprop aircraft, general aviation and military aircraft. Subang Airport‘s IATA code has since been changed to SZB.
The airport’s site spans 100 square kilometres (39 sq mi) 2, of former agricultural land and is one of the world’s largest airport sites. An ambitious three-phase development plan anticipates KLIA to have three runways and two terminals each with two satellite terminals.Phase One involved the construction of the main terminal and one satellite terminal, giving a capacity of 25 million passengers, and two full service runways. The Phase One airport had sixty contact piers, twenty remote parking bays with eighty aircraft parking positions, four maintenance hangars and fire stations. Phase Two, designed to increase capacity to 35 million passengers per year is largely complete. Phase Three is anticipated to increase capacity to 100 million passengers per year.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport was officially inaugurated by the 10th Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Ja’afar of Negeri Sembilan, on 27 June 1998 at 20:30 MST, a week ahead of Hong Kong International Airport and in time for the 1998 Commonwealth Games. The first domestic arrival was Malaysia Airlines flight MH1263 from Kuantan (Kuantan Airport) at 07:10 MST. The first international arrival was Malaysia Airlines flight MH188 from Malé International Airport at 07:30 MST. The first domestic departure was Malaysia Airlines flight MH1432 to Langkawi (Langkawi International Airport) at 07:20 MST; the first international departure was Malaysia Airlines flight MH84 to Beijing (Beijing Capital International Airport) at 09:00 MST.
The Jungle boardwalk, a recreational walk path located at the centre core of the KLIA satellite terminal.
The inauguration of the airport was marked with problems. Aerobridge and bay allocation systems broke down, queues built up throughout the airport and baggage handling broke down. Bags were lost and there were waits of over five hours. Most of these issues were remedied eventually, though baggage handling system was plagued with problems until it was put up for a complete replacement tender in 2007.
The airport suffered greatly reduced traffic with the general reduction in economic activity brought about by the East Asian financial crisis, SARS, bird flu epidemic (Avian flu), the global financial crisis, and the swine flu pandemic. 1998 saw a reduction of passenger numbers as some airlines, including All Nippon Airways (recommencing on 1 September 2015), British Airways(resumed on 28 May 2015), Lufthansa (later reinstated), and Northwest Airlines, terminated their loss making services to KLIA. KLIA’s first full year of operations in 1999, in its Phase One manifestation (capacity of 25 million passengers per year), saw only 13.2 million passengers. Passenger numbers eventually increased to 21.1 million in 2004 and 47 million in 2013 — though short of the originally estimated 25 million passengers per year by 2003.
On 13 February 2017, Kim Jong-nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was assassinated with the nerve agent VX while walking at Kuala Lumpur International Airport2(klia2). Two women, who were alleged to have grabbed him to deploy the nerve agent, were arrested. Kim was traveling under a pseudonym.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport has three parallel runways (14L/32R, 14R/32L, 15/33(Runway 15/33 used to be part of SZB Airport)), a first in the region. The aircraft movements on these runways are monitored by two Air Traffic Control (ATC) Towers; Tower East, and Tower West given the span of the airport. ATC Tower West standing at 133.8m, is currently the tallest ATC tower in the world.
The current three runway system is capable of handling 78 landings per hour and is expected to increase to 108 landings per hour once upgrading of the Kuala Lumpur Flight Information Region is completed in 2019. These runways operate on different departure/arrival modes according to the air traffic requirements.