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This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily on January 11, 2018

KUALA LUMPUR: The number of passengers passing through the 39 airports Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) manages in the country rose by 1.2% year-on-year (y-o-y) in December 2017.

A total of 8.99 million people travelled through the airports in Malaysia in December 2017, up from 8.89 million a year ago.

In a filing with Bursa Malaysia yesterday, MAHB said international traffic rose 10% y-o-y to 4.82 million passengers, while domestic traffic fell 7.5% y-o-y to 4.17 million passengers.

The Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in Sepang handled 5.59 million passengers in December 2017, a growth of 4.5% from 5.35 million passengers recorded a year ago. Out of this, passenger traffic at KLIA Main Terminal fell 2.4% y-o-y to 2.72 million from 2.78 million, which was offset by a 11.8% increase in traffic at klia2 to 2.87 million from 2.57 million.

Overall aircraft movements went up 1.1% y-o-y in December 2017, with international movements registering an increase of 12.8%, which was offset by a 5.6% decline in domestic movements.

System-wide including its Istanbul operations in Turkey, MAHB handled 4.2% more passengers to 11.58 million in December 2017 compared with 11.11 million in December 2016.

Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport’s (SGIA) passenger traffic grew 16.2% y-o-y in December 2017 as it saw international and domestic traffic increase by 18.6% y-o-y and 15.1% y-o-y respectively.

For the entire year of 2017, passenger traffic at the 39 airports in Malaysia improved 8.5% to a record 96.54 million from 88.98 million in 2016. International passenger movements grew 14.1% to 49.4 million passengers over 2016, while domestic traffic rose 3.2% y-o-y to 47.14 million.

MAHB said this is the second highest increase in absolute passenger numbers achieved in the last 20 years.

“It is encouraging to note that passenger traffic was mainly driven by the international sector. This is the first time that the international traffic has exceeded the domestic component,” it added.

It noted that overall international growth in Malaysia was contributed by both local and foreign carriers. Twenty-two airlines registered double- or triple-digit increases over 2016 including AirAsia X, Malindo Air, China Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Royal Jordanian, Shanghai Airlines and Xiamen Airlines.

Domestic passenger growth was contributed by AirAsia and Malindo Air, where demand remained credible based on a high average load of 75.1% — the highest since 2012, said MAHB.

The airport operator noted that total passengers at SGIA surpassed the 30 million mark for the first time last year, handling 5.6% more passengers at 31.32 million compared with 29.65 million in 2016. Its international and domestic passenger movements grew by 8.5% y-o-y and 4.3% y-o-y respectively.

System-wide, MAHB handled 127.85 million passengers in 2017 — the highest passenger movements ever recorded by the airport operator. Passenger movements grew 7.8% from 118.63 million passengers in 2016.

MAHB said KLIA and Kota Kinabalu were among the airports that registered a double-digit growth in passenger movements last year. Other airports that also registered positive growth were Penang, Kuching, Langkawi, Kota Baru, Melaka, Tawau and Bintulu.

KLIA recorded 58.5 million passengers in 2017, up 11.2% over 2016. KLIA Main Terminal handled 10.7% more passengers to 28.2 million compared with 2016, while klia2 handled 30.3 million passengers, a growth of 11.6% over 2016.

On prospects, MAHB said Malaysia passenger traffic in 2018 is expected to grow at 6.3%, with international and domestic passenger traffic growing at 8.3% and 4.2% respectively.

“The projection was derived using forecast models combined with airlines’ schedule filings. The passenger volume estimated also takes into account short-term upswing from the 14th general election movements, which is expected to be held in the first half of 2018. During past elections there had generally been higher than normal passenger growth,” it added.

MAHB also said the 2018 traffic numbers are again expected to be mainly contributed by China, India and Southeast Asia sectors, which currently make up 75% of the international traffic.

“The China and India sectors are likely to continue with the double-digit growth in 2018. With higher international traffic, the current portion of 20% transfers at KLIA will likely increase but marginally.

“The growing travelling local population, combined with [the] increase in the per capita income, will further support air travel growth,” it said, adding that passenger growth prospects for SGIA in 2018 is expected to remain moderate.

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