PETALING JAYA: A “relegated” airport is heading back to the big league after the Cabinet gave its in-principle approval to the long-awaited Subang Airport Rejuvenation Plan (SARP).
Transport Minister Anthony Loke said the plan will transform the airport into a preferred place for aerospace and business aviation in the Asia-Pacific region.
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Once the country’s primary aviation hub, Subang Airport – now officially known as Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport – has been nearly forgotten after its relegation to secondary airport status following the opening of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in June 1998.
Loke said that the airport’s planned transformation would include the reintroduction of commercial passenger flights using jetliners for general and business aviation, urban air mobility and regional commercial flight operations.
“Only narrow-body jets with popular models such as the A320 and the B707 will be allowed to fly to Subang Airport after the SARP is completed.
“The airport will also be developed into a hub for aerospace industry maintenance, repair and overhaul operations, and research and development,” he told a press conference at Terminal 3 of the airport yesterday.
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Also in attendance were his deputy Datuk Hasbi Habibollah, Transport secretary-general Datuk Jana Santhiran Muniayan, and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) managing director Datuk Iskandar Mizal Mahmood.
“The end goal would be to revitalise Subang Airport as a regional aviation hub with a maximum capacity of eight million passengers a year, thus creating thousands of high-value jobs in Malaysia,” said Loke.
He said the SARP had gone through several governments before this, and the latest iteration proposed by MAHB received the Cabinet nod last Thursday after a series of deliberations.
He added that MAHB would be given two months to develop a detailed business plan, with the final cost of the rejuvenation plan to be announced only after the business plan is finalised.
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Responding to questions, MAHB’s Iskandar Mizal said the revival of Subang Airport would not threaten the viability of KLIA, noting that the Subang would only host narrow-body aircraft at its terminals.
“Subang Airport’s revival is aimed at helping alleviate the massive narrow-body aircraft traffic at KLIA, which currently makes up 70% of all air traffic at KLIA.
“This will open up more capacity for KLIA to take on an increased number of popular long-haul flights that are mainly done using wide-body aircraft that Subang Airport’s terminals are not designed to handle.
“Thus the planned rejuvenated Subang Airport will serve as a complementary secondary airport to KLIA, rather than competing against it,” he added.
Narrow-body aircraft typically have a maximum width of around 4m, with their seating arranged around a single aisle, allowing for a maximum of six seats per row.
They are typically used only for short- to medium-haul flights that last between 30 minutes and six hours.
Wide-body aircraft are much larger, with a width anywhere from 5m to 6m or more, enabling the aircraft to accommodate two aisles, and with room for up to 11 seats per row – although seven to 10 seats are more common. These aircraft are usually used for long-haul flights.
Iskandar Mizal said MAHB will fine-tune its previously announced RM1.3bil SARP that was presented in 2021, through engagement with stakeholders and industry players in order to meet the needs of the new SARP.
Subang Airport currently serves as the base for SKS Airways, Firefly, and Batik Air Malaysia, all offering scheduled commercial passenger turboprop (propeller-driven) services.
Raya Airways is the only airline operating jetliners from Subang (Terminal 2), though it is only for cargo.
The return of jetliners was welcomed by some nearby residents, though tempered with some caution.
Subang Jaya resident Elizabeth Tai said she would be happy when she has options rather than having to travel all the way to KLIA to catch a flight.
“I am happy that I can just take a Grab ride to the (Subang) airport, rather than take an hour to go to any airport,” she said.
Civil engineer Loke Kok Wai said making Subang a city airport needs careful deliberation.
“Before many did not want to stay in Subang because of the aircraft noise. Previously, Subang was just a residential area but it has turned into a city with a larger population.
“To redesignate Subang Airport as a city airport, many aspects need to be considered, such as the environment (noise, safety, traffic flow, logistics and so on).
“We have seen many examples of poor planning in development that created long-term negative impacts on the environment,” said Kok Wai, who lives in USJ.
He added that if the planning was meticulous enough, Subang residents could stand to benefit.
“Property in Subang, the industrial areas at Glenmarie, as well as Kelana Jaya business centre and others will benefit from the spillover effect of the city airport.”