After 26 years, narrow-body aircraft operations to resume at Subang Airport in June [BTTV]

KUALA LUMPUR: Single-aisle aircraft operations will resume as early as June this year at Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (SAAS), also known as Subang Airport, as the terminal is being expanded to handle more passengers and jet operations. 

The resumption comes 26 years after all narrow-body aircraft operations were moved to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in 1998. 

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) senior general manager for strategy Megat Ardian Wira Mohd Aminuddin said the expansion works include building up to five parking bays for narrow-body airplanes and six parking bays for ATRs. 

The terminal expansion is phase one of the Subang Airport Regeneration Plan (SARP) that was announced by Transport Minister Anthony Loke in February 2023. 

"Work has started on the apron side (of the terminal). Subang Airport will have three to five parking bays for jets. Those jets are for any of the airlines (that would operate out of the terminal).

"We also have another three to four parking bays (that is planned to be built) which we're discussing with the airport team as well as remote bays. From June onwards, there would be new jet operations (out of Subang Airport)," he told Business Times in an interview recently. 

However, Megat Ardian did not disclose the amount of the phase one SARP project nor the developer. He shared that the expansion works started in December 2023. 

Upon completion of the phase one project, the Subang Airport terminal would be able to handle single-aisle aircraft types such as Boeing 737s, Airbus A320s and A321s. 

It will also see the terminal handling up to three million passengers annually from the current 1.5 million. 

Currently, Subang Airport handles turboprop and business jet operations. Following KLIA's opening, the airport gradually slowed down the operations of narrow-body aircraft and eventually disallowed the planes to operate out of the terminal.

Megat Ardian said MAHB is also looking at the availability of the air traffic space together with the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) to offer airport slots to airlines that are interested to operate out of the Subang Airport. 

He said airlines that are currently flying out of SAAS such as Malaysia Aviation Group's Firefly and Batik Air Malaysia Sdn Bhd could keep their existing airport slots and apply for new ones if they want to.

"Those airlines that are currently operating out of Subang (Airport) can keep their slots. It's like the grandfather rights. So, Firefly (get to) keep their slots. Batik Air keep their slots. They can convert those slots from ATRs to jets," he said. 

In October last year, Batik Air Malaysia chief executive officer Datuk Chandran Rama Muthy told Business Times that the airline would eventually scale down its turboprop aircraft operation at the SAAS and focus on narrow-body airplanes instead. 

Megat Ardian said currently the Transport Ministry is engaging with local carriers to finalise the airport slots policy before the airlines could submit their application starting April.

The slots would be opened to Malaysian-based carriers and are based on a first come first serve basis. 

The local airlines have expressed their interest in writing to MAHB, including the national carrier Malaysia Airlines and the budget carriers to operate from Subang Airport, said Megat Ardian. 

He added that the airport operator has been constantly engaging with the airlines to understand their operational plans, network plans as well as the type of aircraft that they plan to operate. 

When asked if Subang Airport could potentially cannibalise KLIA's passenger traffic, Megat Ardian said it would not happen as the airport could only handle up to eight million passengers per year compared to KLIA's total capacity of 75 million passengers yearly for both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2. 

The runway at Subang Airport will also be the only runway available as there are no land or space available to either extend the runway or build a second one. 

"Subang Airport will focus on point-to-point market. There are no transfer facilities. We're not providing transfer facilities or buses to KLIA (from Subang). We will not increase the runway length and we will not put in another one because that's the maximum that we can go," he said. 

Phase two of the SARP would see the Subang Airport terminal increasing its capacity to handle up to five million passengers per year while phase three would see eight million passengers annually. 

Megat Ardian said MAHB is currently discussing with the Transport Ministry on phase two and phase three of the SARP as the two stages of the development needs to get the approval from the Cabinet.

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