Friday, 13 June 2014

Analysis of KLIA Terminal 2

After nearly 1 year of delays, Terminal 2 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA T2) is finally open to the public on 2nd May 2014. I have a chance to visit this terminal 1 month after it's opening, and it was a mixed experience at the airport. I personally loved the wide and well lit spaces of the terminal, though the lack of travelators in the building is a major drawback for luggage laden passengers.

Just some background, KLIA T2 was opened in response to the explosion of low-cost carriers in the Southeast Asian region. This terminal is dedicated to budget airlines like Air Cebu and AirAsia, but with the comforts and conveniences of a mainstream airport terminal.

The terminal building. Note the large glass facade and clean lines.

Upon landing

It is quite weird that the passenger terminal is perpendicular to the terminal, unlike most airports where the terminals are parallel. This meant the plane need to spend quite some time taxiing to the gate. It is also weird that there is only 1 visible runway.

The terminal looked average sized from the outside, but I was immediately impressed by the amount of glass. The building seemed to be very well lit. Also, the rounded rectangle and parallelograms gives the building a slight organic feel, though the structure is generally quite geometric. There is also a separate control tower, so I guess that KLIA2 is totally separate from T1 with its own air traffic control system.

Alighting the plane

As usual, people will clamber for the exits long before the doors actually opened. We sat down for the crowd to disperse before alighting. First impression: The jetbridges were really spacious. Just an hour before I boarded the narrow, dimly lit jetbridges and Singapore's Changi Airport, and I was immediately blown away by the large glass windows and 2.5m wide passageways.

Note that the jetbridges are wide and very well illuminated

We needed to climb up a ramp before reaching the main corridors. There, I noticed that the boarding area is actually towards the middle of the terminal building (and alighting passengers walk along the outside). This is certainly an excellent way to give arriving passengers a warm, welcoming feel. However, my parents were quite irritated by the lack of the travelators. We had to walk a full 10 minutes to the immigration area. In fact, the corridor was wide enough that even with 3 back-to-back arrivals the corridor did not feel congested
This is what a crowd from 3 flights looks like

My flight actually reached 10 mins late. You can see that many instructions are in Malay

Worse still, my gate (Concourse L) was actually one of the nearer ones. There was another concourse (P and Q) across the apron, and I can only guess how long passengers alighting there need to walk.

Imagine the long walk from the other concourse

Immigration and Security

There are sufficient lanes for immigration that wait times were manageable (I waited 45mins at Rome airport for immigration). However, when selecting a queue, please look out for those where the queues move the fastest, not the shortest. There are some immigration officers that are just remarkably slow (luckily I changed lane from a particular counter that took 15 minutes to check a family of 4)

 No trolleys are allowed at the immigration area

Signboards are in both English and Malay. This one is at the baggage collection area

Bag security checks were not as strict as Singapore's, as there was no body scanner. Nonetheless, the staff are particularly strict about bringing taxable or declarable items (I did not bring any, of course). The less stringent checks also meant that crowds pass through quite rapidly.

Shopping and dining

There are a few shops and dining options available. The dining is really cheap for airport standards. It is possible to get a full meal for RM5 (SGD2). However, the duty free shops are really a rip-off. Take the chocolates for instance. A bag of Hershey kisses from Resorts World Sentosa cost about SGD7 but the duty free kisses will force you to kiss goodbye to RM20 (SGD8).

The well decorated Duty Free area belies the expensive "double-duty" prices they charge

Outside the checked-in area, there is a small shopping area, but no where near the size and scope (and expensive price tag) of Changi Airport. I guess that it is just a last minute emergency shopping for budget travellers, since I do not think any local will want to specially travel to the airport. There is wifi at some of the restaurants but I did not find any internet cafes.
 What a weird place to put signboards. Who can read it from there? (Look at the one on top, not below)

Wow! This is the only place in KL I find many recycling bins


Overall, transport options are fewer and less convenient that most international airports I visited, but we must not forget that this is the budget terminal. Most buses and taxis are only available at Terminal 1, so you need to take a train (RM2) to Terminal 1. Of course, the airport train also offers direct service to the KL Sentral Station, although this option is quite expensive (RM35). A taxi to KL is about RM100, but I still suggest you take this train as it is very fast (30mins) and there is no risk of enduring KL's quite bad traffic.

For train affectionados, you will be interested in the many interesting features, including large arm-level luggage racks (easier to put then floor to ceiling racks). KLIA Transit trains (identical trains that stop at several locations at a slower speed) also have an energy saving feature where the doors stay closed at the station unless someone presses a button to open the doors. At 160km/h (100mph), the KLIA Ekspress is currently the fastest train service in Southeast Asia, alongside the KL-Ipoh ERL.

From Terminal 1, there is also direct bus service to major hotels like Berjaya Times Square and attractions like Genting Highlands. Tickets range from RM10 to 30+ per person

The train station is just 2 minutes walk from baggage collection. It is even nearer than the taxi/bus bays! 

 The press to enter function is found on KLIA Transit only

Perched seats give children an excellent view 

The interior of the train includes TV screens (with sound), though I think no one bothers to look


The check-in counters are accessible via escalator from KLIA Ekspres. There is also an alighting bay just in front of the departure hall. While the space is wide and spacious, I do not like the fact that most passengers are funneled through the middle (in most airports, passengers stream through across the entire breath of the departure hall). Because of this, the check-in counters nearer to the middle have significantly longer queues (especially since half of the check-ins are occupied by AirAsia).

There are 2 rounds of bag security at this terminal, though I find that the first one is more like a for-show as the staff there do not seem so serious and there isn't even a need to empty our pockets. The second one was much more stringent though I prefer if they do a single, stringent one so it is more convenient for passengers. The queue for immigration is actually shorter than arrivals, I guess because passengers are more dispersed. (unlike when 2-3 flights arrive in very close intervals)

The journey to the departure gate involves going up and down several floors, which I am not exactly very fond of. Also, the final waiting area does not provide enough seats for all passengers (some people are caught sitting on the floor). The only thing I can conclude is that this terminal is designed mainly with arrival passengers in mind.


Overall, I had a pleasant, relaxed experience at KLIA T2. The atmosphere was very tourist friendly and the staff are overall quite friendly. There are some transport limitations, but I think that it is because this is a new terminal and new options will be available as time passes and more airlines choose to use this terminal.

  • Queue Time: ☆☆☆☆
  • Cleanliness: ☆☆☆☆
  • Transportation to/from city: ☆☆☆
  • Security (efficiency): ☆☆☆
  • Airport Layout: ☆☆☆☆
  • Overall: ☆☆☆

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