Kota Kinabalu International Airport Termina 2 is a LCCT. For the uninitiated, that stands for Low Cost Carrier Terminal.
Yup, in the world of no-frills travel, Malaysia is surely among the leaders with its AirAsia headed by the charismatic, Asian version of Richard Branson, Tony Fernandez.
Low, very low, cost terminal
Unlike anywhere else in the world that I know of, Malaysia has given the low cost airlines their own low cost terminals. So far, the country’s two busiest airports, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu has them.
Obviously the theory is that to save costs, why not do away with all the nicities that you would normally find at a full service terminal, such as sky-bridges, elaborate decoration, grand design and the like – all of these amenities and facilities airlines pay for and pass on to the consumer.
Kota Kinabalu International Airport Terminal 2 reincarnated as a bit of a wonder. As the first airport to have a Low Cost Carrier Terminal, the first permutation was very, very basic and soon couldn’t handle the passenger load. It was thus decided to upgrade the first version to a bigger, slight more than low cost version.
The construction of this new terminal was completed 18 months in advance of the planned schedule. Image the bonuses the construction company walk away with. It is now probably one of the most efficient terminals I have visited, and can easily turn around a flight in less than 30 minutes. The main terminal can’t say that much.
It is however not the most beautiful of terminals, and it’s still oh so very low cost. But when you’re trying to save precious travel money, who cares, right? It’s still a pleasant experience.
Arriving with time to spare
In anticipation of our flight departing to Kuala Lumpur, we (the Journo and myself) arrived a good 2 hours in advance. It is a domestic flight and you technically only need one hour, but with AirAsia, more time than usual is always a good idea. The flight is almost guaranteed to be late and it has happened on occasion that the good AirAsia people actually left early. So to be safe, we covered our basis.
With our luggage checked in we went to the nearby First Beach development (around the corner, 3 minute drive) where we had some snacks that we tried to pass of as dinner. AirAsia, in-line with what you would expect from other low coast carriers, do not serve food as part of your ticket. They come around with a trolley from where you can buy selected pieces of junk food if you really want to.
We headed back to the terminal in time for boarding and spent another half hour waiting. I think on this occasion the flight was only 20 minutes late and I couldn’t help but wonder when they mark themselves as late. On their website they state that in November they were on time 85% of the time – who makes up that number?
Anyway, the Kota Kinabalu International Airport Terminal 2 has most of what you want. On the outside there are one or two eateries, an ATM that accepts VISA and Mastercard and a foreign exchange. There is also a restaurant, perfume shop, information kiosks and a place where you can buy frozen seafood (I hope it’s a short flight).
Once inside, things are a bit more basic. There is one restaurant that serve expensive and limited food and drink, a duty free shop for chocolates, perfume and reasonably priced (for Malaysia) alcohol and another shop for trinkets, souvenirs and snacks. Enough variety to occupy you for about 10 minutes.
The flight to Kuala Lumpur itself was tedious. I’m about 1.87m tall (give or take about 6 foot 2 inches) and I fit into the AirAsia seats exactly. The only way I can move my back of the seat is if I wiggle my legs underneath the seats in front of me and slide down a bit. It’s only a two and half hour flight, so I can bare it. Just.
Eventually, for perhaps the last 30 minutes of the flight, I managed to fall asleep on the Journo’s lap, but even that was uncomfortable. We arrived in Kuala Lumpur stiff and worst for the wear, but the walk to the terminal provided an opportunity to stretch.
Our luggage appeared in very basic arrivals terminal quicker than expected. The terminal is bigger than the one at Kota Kinabalu, but very stark and bare – the only other things aside from the luggage carousel were 4 kiosks selling bus tickets and taxi rides.
We collected our luggage and zoomed through the door without having to clear immigration or customs. It’s considered a domestic flight, although if you fly via the main terminal, you still have to clear immigration and customs – albeit as a formality.
Once outside the arrivals terminals, our attention was attracted by the AirAsia Skybus, which for RM9, would transport us to the city centre – the Central Station to be more exact. This was quite convenient as he Journo’s brother fetched us from here and it was another 10 minutes from there to where we would be staying during our trip to Kuala Lumpur.