Kota Kinabalu is a town in the state capital of Sabah and the airport is about 8 kilometres southwest of the city. Kuala Lumpur Airport is naturally the biggest in the country but Kota Kinabalu is a close second. It is the main international gateway for passengers going to Sabah and the island of Borneo. The airport is owned by the Malaysian government and from 1992 has been operated and managed by Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad. In 2011 there were 59,638 aircraft movements carrying 5,808,639 passengers, an increase of 11.2% on the previous year.
The airport was built by the Japanese forces during World War II for military use and was originally called Jesselton Airfield. The airfield came under attack and was severely bombed by Allied Forces until the Japanese Army surrendered in 1945.
Sabah, or New Borneo as it was then, took charge of the airfield under the guidance of their Department of Civil Aviation and improvements were made. The grass airstrip was given a proper tarmac surface in 1957 and a new terminal building was built. The runway was extended to 1,593 metres by 1959 to accommodate the Viscount aircraft from Malaysian Airways.
De Havilland’s Comet 4 arrived in Kota Kinabalu Airport in 1963 to a newly reinforced runway that had had another 300 metres added to accommodate the world’s first jet liner. After that the commercial flights and numbers of passengers grew until it became clear that another terminal was needed.
In the decade of the 1970’s the new terminal was built and almost all of the commercial flights started using this. The old terminal was known simply as “old airport” until recently, when in 2007 the new terminal was named as Terminal 1 and the old one became Terminal 2.
The smart sleek building houses 64 check in desks for domestic and international flights. Narrow and wide bodied aircraft can be accommodated in any of the 17 parking bays with 12 sky bridges available. Up to 3,200 passengers can be handled by the terminal at any one time.
The departure hall has been designed to reflect Malaysian traditions with the columns in the design of a “Wakid” basket. Generations of the Kadazandusuns, Sabah’s ethnic population, have used these baskets to carry their farm produce for hundreds of years. The floor tiles have been designed to incorporate patterns of the Bajau and Rungus ethnic tribes.
There is a VIP lounge, a conference facility, retail outlets and places to eat and drink. The airport is very efficient with 36 immigration counters, and plenty of luggage x-ray machines and baggage carousels.
Flights and Destinations
AirAsia - Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Hong Kong, Jakarta-Soekarno-Hatta, Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Miri, Penang, Sandakan, Shenzhen, Singapore, Taipei-Taoyuan, Tawau
Asiana Airlines - Seoul-Incheon
Cebu Pacific - Manila
Dragonair - Hong Kong
Eastar Jet - Seoul-Incheon
Hong Kong Airlines - Hong Kong
Indonesia AirAsia - Denpasar/Bali
Korean Air - Seoul-Incheon
Malaysia Airlines - Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Labuan, Osaka-Kansai, Perth, Sandakan, Shanghai-Pudong, Tawau, Taipei-Taoyuan
MASwings - Balikpapan, Bintulu, Kuching, Kudat, Labuan, Lahad Datu, Lawas, Miri, Mulu, Sandakan, Sibu, Tarakan, Tawau
Malindo Air - Kuala Lumpur
Royal Brunei Airlines - Bandar Seri Begawan
Spring Airlines –Shanghai, Pudong
SilkAir - Singapore
ZestAir - Manila
Transport To and From the Airport
There are no buses between the airport and the city so unless you are being picked up or dropped off a taxi is the only way to get about. There is an Airport Taxi counter in the arrivals hall of Terminal 1 where you can buy a fixed price coupon for RM 30 to the town centre for a taxi carrying up to four people. Once you have purchased your coupon go to the taxi rank and hand it to the driver.
All the major car rental companies have desks in the arrivals hall so car hire is easy, whether you have pre-booked or wish to book when you arrive.
Once you get to the Kota Kinabalu city there are several ways of continuing your journey. There are two bus stations, one for more local routes and ones that will take you across the country. Kota Kinabalu has East Malaysia’s only railway and both commuters and cargo are carried. There is another company called North Borneo Railway which operates a route mainly for tourists. There is a container port and a ferry port and there are scheduled ferries to take tourists and commuters out to the many islands.
Kota Kinabalu International Airport Arrivals
Kota Kinabalu International Airport Departures
Routes To Kota Kinabalu International Airport
- Bayan Lepas, George Town to Kota Kinabalu
- Bintulu to Kota Kinabalu
- Kota Bharu to Kota Kinabalu
- Kuala Lumpur, Sepang to Kota Kinabalu
- Kuching to Kota Kinabalu
- Kudat to Kota Kinabalu
- Labuan to Kota Kinabalu
- Lahad Datu to Kota Kinabalu
- Lawas to Kota Kinabalu
- Miri to Kota Kinabalu
- Mulu to Kota Kinabalu
- Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu
- Senai, Johor Bahru to Kota Kinabalu
- Sibu to Kota Kinabalu
- Tawau to Kota Kinabalu
Routes From Kota Kinabalu International Airport
- Kota Kinabalu to Bayan Lepas, George Town
- Kota Kinabalu to Bintulu
- Kota Kinabalu to Kota Bharu
- Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur, Sepang
- Kota Kinabalu to Kuching
- Kota Kinabalu to Kudat
- Kota Kinabalu to Labuan
- Kota Kinabalu to Lahad Datu
- Kota Kinabalu to Lawas
- Kota Kinabalu to Miri
- Kota Kinabalu to Mulu
- Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan
- Kota Kinabalu to Senai, Johor Bahru
- Kota Kinabalu to Sibu
- Kota Kinabalu to Tawau