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Full disclosure: I live in Subang Jaya

Today was the first time I flew from KL to Singapore. I took a record 25 minutes to reach the airport (breaking every conceivable speed regulation). I was earlier on track to arrive at the airport way before time, only to realize when my car joined the congested Psn Kewajipan towards KESAS (E 5) that I left my passport at home. (The bottleneck on Psn Kewajipan across KESAS is set to worsen when the new Majlis Link expressway ends just before the bottleneck, but that’s another grouse).

What annoys me is that KLIA is built so far away from the city it takes its name – from Kuala Lumpur, you cross state borders three times before arriving at the airport. According to the authority that is the JetStar Asia magazine, KLIA is 57 km away from the city that lends its name. By comparison, Singapore’s Changi Airport and Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok Airport is respectively 20 and 30 km away.

However, Changi and Chek Lap Kok serve primarily international, mid- to long-distance travel. KLIA, by government decree, is also a hub of domestic and regional travel (meaning it may take as fast getting to KL by bus than by plane).

Having the airport so far out from the city it is meant to serve (nearby Seremban, the capital of Negeri Sembilan, is nearer to KLIA than KL) is obviously harming KL. When allowed, airlines opt for Subang Airport for domestic and regional travel (turboprop flights are presently allowed – Firefly, which could very well fly from KLIA, opted for Subang Airport).

Perhaps reopening Subang Airport (approx 25 km from downtown KL) to commercial aviation would serve KL well – regional flights to Kuala Lumpur would be significantly more viable with the airport located in Malaysia’s second largest urban centre (Subang Jaya), as well as bordering Shah Alam, Petaling Jaya, and Kuala Lumpur itself.

There are many cases of two (or more) airports complementing each other. In Bangkok, Don Mueang (approx 20 km from downtown) serves as the domestic hub while Suvanarbhumi (approx 30 km from downtown) serves as the international hub. New York City is served by three airports (two within city limits). London has six airports, two of which within Greater London. Dubai is building a new Al Maktoum airport in Jebel Ali, to complement — not replace — the important Dubai International Airport.

Sepang (where KLIA is) could very well serve a growing transit market and well position to compete against Hong Kong and Singapore for it. But it is ill suited to be where KL’s sole airport is to be.

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