Malaysia Airports passenger traffic recovers sharply in 2023 but lags pre-pandemic levels

International passenger traffic at Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 1 more than doubled to 18.5 million last year

MALAYSIA. Malaysia Airports’ network served 119.4 million passengers in 2023, a leap of +42.4% year-on-year and reaching 84.6% of 2019 levels. It was the first time since before the pandemic that the total figure has exceeded 100 million.

The company said: “Traffic growth was driven partly by the increase in travellers’ confidence and air travel demand, approval of more slots at other international airports, reactivation of more aircraft, new aircraft delivery and China’s reopening of borders on 8 January 2023.”

International passenger traffic reached 58.2 million (86.2% of 2019 numbers) and domestic reached 61.3 million (83.2% of 2019).

In Malaysia, passenger volumes of 81.9 million grew by +55.4% year-on-year and represented 77.8% of the pre-pandemic total. Within this, international traffic recovered slowly, reaching 50% of 2019 volumes in the final quarter and reached four million passengers in December for the first time since February 2020.

Passenger traffic snapshot for December and full-year 2023; click to enlarge

The company noted: “The encouraging traffic recovery was mainly driven by the reopening of China borders, increase in airline seat capacity with the reactivation of aircraft and new deliveries. Six new airlines and seven airlines resumed services to 20 city pairs and seven countries in 2023 with the highest traffic to Indonesia, China, South Korea, and the Middle East.”

By contrast, Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen International Airport hit a record high of 37.6 million passengers, +4.5% ahead of 2019. Within this, international passenger numbers climbed by +37.5% compared to 2019 to reach 19.6 million. The domestic sector showed a +82.8% recovery rate over 2019 to reach 18 million.

The Malaysian Aviation Commission’s Waypoint Report in December 2023 forecast Malaysia passenger movements for 2024 to grow by between +10% and +25%, potentially reaching 107 million. Visa-free entry for Chinese and Indian passengers should provide a boost to the figures, said the airport company. ✈

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