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Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia

April 6th, 2007 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) (IATA: KUL, ICAO: WMKK) is Malaysia's main international airport and is situated in Sepang district, in the south of the state of Selangor, about 50 km from the capital city, Kuala Lumpur. Built at a cost of some USD 3.5 billion, KLIA was inaugurated on 27 June 1998. Its slogan was Bringing the World to Malaysia and Malaysia to the World.

The airport is operated by Malaysia Airports (Sepang) Sdn Bhd and is the hub for Malaysia Airlines, Malaysia Airlines Cargo and AirAsia.KLIA is also the stopover point for Kangaroo route for KLM, Malaysia Airlines and Austrian Airlines. It is currently given a rating of four stars by Skytrax's airport grading exercise along with five other airports.

The planning of KLIA began in 1990 when the government decided that the existing Subang International Airport (now Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport) would not suffice to handle future demand. Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad was a prime driver behind the project, which was seen as an important component of the Multimedia Super Corridor.

The decision was highly controversial on multiple grounds. The location, over 50 km from Kuala Lumpur was viewed as inconvenient; the price tag shows its ballooning from original estimates and critics alleged that, contrary to the government's assertions, Subang could still be expanded. Indeed, work on Subang continued simultaneously with KLIA's construction. Subang's new Terminal 3 was opened in December 1993 and Terminal 2 was refurbished in 1995, only three years before KLIA's opening.

The inauguration of the airport on June 27, 1998 (one week before the new Hong Kong International Airport) was marked with significant problems. Aerobridge and bay allocation systems broke down, queues formed throughout the airport, and baggage handling broke down badly, with lost bags and waits of over five hours. Most of these issues were sorted out eventually, but the baggage handling system continued to be plagued with problems. The baggage handling system was finally put up for a new complete replacement tender in 2006.

The airport also had to contend with the East Asian financial crisis, SARS and Bird Flu Epidemic (Avian Flu) which decimated passenger traffic in Malaysia and the region. Passenger growth was initially negative during the Financial Crisis and airlines that had started flights to KLIA including All Nippon Airways, British Airways, Lufthansa and Northwest Airlines, terminated their services due to unprofitability. The first phase of the airport was designed with a capacity of 25 million passengers per year but on the first full year of operations in 1999, it saw only 13.2 million. However, traffic did eventually increase with 21.1 million passengers were recorded in 2004 and 23.2 million in 2005 — although this, too, fell short of the original estimate of 25 million by the year 2003.

Since 2000, KLIA has won numerous awards, among others were in 2006 for, "Best Airport in the 15-25 million passengers per annum category in the AETRA 2005 results" and "Third place for both Best Airport Worldwide and Best Airport in Asia/Pacific categories in the AETRA 2005 results".Again in 2007,KLIA was rated the Best Aiport in the world for 15-25 million passengers with Third Best Airport in Asia Pacific and Worldwide, behind Incheon International Airport , Hong Kong International Airport and beating Singapore Changi Airport (SKYTRAX's World Best Airport) which fell fourth place in World Best Airport and Asia Pacific Best Airport category. The award was organised by Airports Council International Airport Service Quality (ACI-ASQ)

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