Sultan Ismail Petra Airport is in Kota Bharu in the very north east of Malaysia quite close to the border with Thailand. Kota Bharu is the royal seat and state capital of the Kelantan region and the name means new fort or new castle in Malay. There are many beautiful buildings in this city including the royal palace. The Sultan still lives there so visits inside are not allowed but you can admire the architecture from outside. There are other former royal buildings, museums and mosques that can be visited in the town centre.
The airport was originally known as Pengkalan Chepa Airport but when the new airport was built it was renamed after the 13th ruler of Kelantan, who ruled from 1980 – 2010. Sultan Ishmael Petra Airport flies between five domestic airports but doesn’t have any international flights. It is the busiest east coast airport in Malaysia and in 2011 ranked tenth in passenger traffic and third in aircraft movements. The passenger numbers for 2012 were 1,259,250 with 59,991 aircraft movements which include private, training and military aircraft as well as commercial flights.
Malaysia government own the airport and it is operated by Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad.
The site that Sultan Ishmael Petra Airport is built on used to be an RAF base. The old British military airfield, RAF Kota Bharu, was the location of the landing of the Japanese when they first invaded Malaysia in 1941. When the war was over the airfield was turned into a civilian airport and didn’t change much until 1999 when the government earmarked finance for a new terminal. With a budget of RM55 million the work started in 2000 and took two years to complete. The new terminal started operating in September 2002.
Work didn’t stop here and in 2008 new aircraft and helicopter parking areas were built. The work also included a new apron and a new hangar plus improvements for the Asia Pacific Flight Training School.
A further RM45 million was awarded for more upgrades to the airport with a meteorological station and updated instrument landing system coming high on the list plus plans to lengthen the runway.
The runway has been extended from 1,981 metres to 2,400 and is now able to accommodate the Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A330.
The terminal building has been built in Moorish style and has white curved arches and a flat green roof. The footprint is 12,000 square metres and it is very modern with all the facilities that you could need. The terminal is equipped to handle 1.4 million passengers and for ease of movement to and from the aircraft there are three sky bridges. The sky bridges were rescued from the old Subang Airport and refurbished to be used in Kota Bharu. There are three airport stands and the control tower and runways have sophisticated navigational aids.
Inside the terminal there are customer and service information desks. Disabled travellers are well catered for with wheelchair and porter services as well as disabled friendly bathrooms. There is also a medical post. While you are waiting for your flight there are ATM’s to get cash from and shops and restaurants to spend it in, one of these being KFC.
Safety is high priority in Sultan Ismail Petra Airport with security guards and police to keep a careful eye on what is happening. The huge screens displaying arrivals and departures are dotted around the airport and make it easy to find out flight information. The airport at Kota Bharu is considered one of the best in Malaysia with excellent standards making for stress-free travel.
The airport is open between 6am and midnight unless there are delays. If so the airport will remain open until the flight has departed or been cancelled.
Flights and Destinations
Malaysia Airlines – Kuala Lumpur
Air Asia – Kuala Lumpur
Firefly – Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Bahru
Transport To and From the Airport
Taxis are available outside the arrivals hall and they calculate the fare to your destination on a freight rate. There are shuttle services to the town centre and the car hire companies have desks inside the airport. Hertz and Avis will be more well-known names but there is also Expedia, Kayak and J&W.
The buses stop every 20 – 30 minutes outside the terminal for the eight kilometre journey to the town. The fare is RM2 and the buses run from 7am to 7pm.
Routes To Sultan Ismail Petra Airport, RAF Kota Bharu
- Bayan Lepas, George Town to Kota Bharu
- Kota Kinabalu to Kota Bharu
- Kuala Lumpur, Sepang to Kota Bharu
- Senai, Johor Bahru to Kota Bharu
- Subang, Shah Alam to Kota Bharu