(File pix) Passenger traffic movement at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) stood at 7.3 million people in November, an 11.2 per cent growth compared to the same period last year. Pix by Mohd Adam Arinin

KOTA KINABALU: Passenger traffic movement at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) stood at 7.3 million people in November, an 11.2 per cent growth compared to the same period last year.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd managing director Datuk Badlisham Ghazali said the international segment received an even bigger growth, registering 2.3 million people or a 22.1 percent hike compared to the previous year.

“We are glad to see this increase especially after our pledge in the last two years to further support the development of tourism in Sabah by intensifying efforts to promote the state as a destination.

“Tourism in Sabah is at its peak right now, with each town offering fabulous local activities combining nature and culture,” he said.

In a statement announcing the new route by Indonesia’s Batik Air, connecting Kota Kinabalu with Jakarta, starting today, Badlisham said the new route is timely as Indonesians can now enjoy Sabah at its best.

The new route, said Badlisham, will also benefit both Malaysia and Indonesia.

Batik Air will start flying direct from Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International Airport to KKIA twice a week following its successful inaugural flight today.

Batik Air will use its fleet of Airbus A320 or Boeing 737-900 ER to operate the new route.

The Kota Kinabalu route was part of the carrier’s plan to expand its international network. Earlier this month, it had flown to two new domestic destinations in Indonesia namely Silangit (North Sumatra) and Labuan Bajo (on the Island of Flores).

Batik Air president director Captain Achmad Luthfie is confident that the Jakarta-KK route will contribute to economic growth, and added the possibility of increasing flight frequency to seven times a week based on the forecast passenger load factor.

“On top of that, Batik Air also plans to develop more new routes to East Malaysian destinations such as Kuching,” Achmad said.

With a fleet size of 51 aircraft, Batik Air at present serves over 35 domestic destinations. Its international destinations include Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Chennai and Perth.