GEORGE TOWN: The upgrading project of Penang International Airport (PIA) is crucial for the tourism sector's growth, the state assembly heard on Tuesday (Nov 28).
Tourism and creative economy committee chairman Wong Hon Wai (PH-Paya Terubong) said the project will give the airport greater capacity to receive additional direct flights.
"The project will give PIA more slot availability and this is one of the main factors in securing new routes," he said in reply to Teh Lai Heng (PH-Komtar).
Wong said another initiative to encourage more direct flights to Penang is to work closely with Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad, airlines and diplomatic missions to explore more routes to Penang.
He said there should also be enhanced marketing and promotion to instil confidence in airlines that their routes to Penang would be sustainable.
The expansion of PIA will increase the terminal’s annual handling capacity from 6.5 million passengers to 12 million.
The 87-year-old airport has undergone several infrastructure expansions over the years, with the first from 1977 to 1979 giving it an annual capacity of 1.5 million passengers.
The airport was expanded and upgraded in 1998 to accommodate 3.5 million passengers.
In 2013, its capacity was increased to 6.5 million passengers.
Travel growth surged and by 2019, the airport was handling 8.3 million passengers yearly, leading to overcrowding and numerous calls for another upgrade.