A shared runway 11 kilometres south of Kuching in the region of Sarawak in Malaysia is home to both No 7 Squadron of RMAF Kuching Airbase and the regions airport. Kuching International Airport (KIA) can handle around 5 million passengers a year and is fourth in the airport ranks in Malaysia. In 2012 passenger numbers were 4,186.523 with 46,727 aircraft movements and 15,811 tonnes of cargo handled.
Kuching International Airport is the gateway to Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo or Sabah as it is called today. Kuching city itself has been recognised by the United Nations and World Health Organisation as being one of the cleanest and healthiest places in Malaysia.
Sarawak is one of two states in Malaysia with autonomy over immigration and has special rules for arriving and departing passengers. Anyone on a flight from outside of Sarawak, including the Malaysian Peninsular must go through immigration control.
The airport is owned by the government of Malaysia and is operated and managed by Malaysia Airports (MAHB) Sepang Sdn Bhd
The airport was built by the British Government at the end of the 1940’s and opened in September 1950. The short runway of just 1,372 metres sat alongside a single storey terminal building, with a cluster of buildings nearby housing the fire station, cargo and maintenance departments and control tower. To aid landing and take-off directional finding equipment and radio systems were installed.
By late 1954 KIA was in demand and the figures from that year show 13,564 passengers and 1,550 aircraft movements. By 1959 the runway was increased to 1,555 metres to accommodate the Viscount aircraft. Another 400 metres was added to the runway in 1962 when the de Havilland Comet 4 began flying to Malaysia and the terminal was extended in the same year.
In 1972 a Canadian team of consultants we engaged to make a Master Plan and in December 1972 this was accepted by the Malaysian government.
The consultants recommended reinforcing the runway to take larger aircraft as well as yet another extension to the length. The work on this was started in 1973 and by 1976 the improved runway had grown to 2,454 metres and was ready for the Boeing 707.
As aircraft were designed that were bigger and heavier than their predecessors by 1980 the runway was strengthened again. This was with the invention of the Airbus A320 and these works were completed by 1982.
The terminal that was started in 1978 was finally finished five years later in July 1983. The three storey passenger terminal on an 81 hectare site opened in August 1983. The airport is very neatly planned with the control tower, cargo and maintenance building, fire station and offices all arranged close to the terminal.
The modern hi-tech terminal we see today was opened in January 2006 with the final work completed by April of the same year. There are nine gates including three for wide-bodied aircraft and four more remote gates for turboprops. There is a separate gate to accommodate the largest airliner in the world, the Airbus A380.
Kuching International Airport has two baggage reclaim areas, one is for both international flights and flights outside Sarawak and one is for the domestic flights within Sarawak.
The shiny chrome airport has beautiful wooden floors and the staff are generally friendly and helpful. Baggage has to be scanned before being checked in but the staff will show you where to go.
There are all the usual fast food outlets and some shops. The shops can be expensive so be warned. A downside is no free internet access.
Flights and Destinations
There are several private companies using KIA and two foreign airlines with chartered flights that have no regular schedule. Three of Malaysia’s airlines use the airport as well as airlines from two neighbouring countries.
AirAsia - Bintulu, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Miri, Penang, Sibu, Singapore
Hornbill Skyways - Miri, Tanjung Manis
Malaysia Airlines - Bintulu, Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Miri, Sibu, Singapore
MASwings - Bandar Seri Begawan, Bintulu, Kota Kinabalu, Miri, Mukah, Mulu, Pontianak, Sibu, Tanjung Manis
Malindo Air - Kuala Lumpur
SilkAir - Singapore
TransAsia Airways - Charter: Taipei-Taoyuan
Transport To and From the Airport
There are no buses into the city from the airport. Taxis are available in the arrivals hall and a pre-paid coupon can be bought at the taxi desk.
Car hire is available at the airport either by pre-booking or making arrangements when you get to KIA.
Once you get into Kuching buses can be used to get around. Most of them are old, with no air-conditioning but they are cheap! The State Ministry of Tourism does provide a bus shuttle so tourists can see the city.
Kuching International Airport, RMAF Kuching Arrivals
Kuching International Airport, RMAF Kuching Departures
Routes To Kuching International Airport, RMAF Kuching
- Bayan Lepas, George Town to Kuching
- Bintulu to Kuching
- Kota Kinabalu to Kuching
- Kuala Lumpur, Sepang to Kuching
- Miri to Kuching
- Mukah to Kuching
- Mulu to Kuching
- Senai, Johor Bahru to Kuching
- Sibu to Kuching
- Subang, Shah Alam to Kuching
- Tanjung Manis, Mukah to Kuching