This Airport – Which Covers 100 Square Kilometers – Opened Its Doors

June 27, 1998

In Malaysia, a record-setting airport was officially opened about 28 miles (45 kilometers) south of the central part of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. The Saturday night inaugural festivities for Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), which is specifically located in the Malaysian state of Selangor, took place five years after the groundbreaking for the facility.

The formal 1998 debut of KLIA received widespread coverage. “Malaysia’s Huge Airport Ready for Takeoff,” announced a headline in the faraway Florida-based News-Press. The Associated Press (AP) reported, “Awash in glittering lights and regal ceremony, Malaysia Saturday unveiled its sleek new airport, designed to put the Southeast Asian nation on the map in the new millennium.” This AP story also noted, “With a rambling roof resembling white Bedouin tents, the five-level KLIA boasts the world’s tallest air-traffic control tower, biggest passenger lounge and the capacity for 25 million people a year.”

The creation of KLIA was championed by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who highlighted its potential economic benefits for the nation. He and his government also maintained that Subang International Airport (present-day Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport), which had served as Kuala Lumpur’s main airport since 1965, would eventually not be able to accommodate the ever-growing number of airline passengers flying in and out of the region.

Most of the building of KLIA was done by Malaysian businessman Lin Kang Hoo’s corporation Ekovest Berhad as well as a few state-owned construction companies. Kisho Kurokawa, a prolific Japanese architect, designed the airport original terminal building (known as KLIA Main).

Those on hand for the grand opening of KLIA included Tuanku Ja’afar, who reigned at the time as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Malaysia’s equivalent of monarch and head of state). KLIA’s debut took place only nine days before the opening of Hong Kong International Airport, another major airport in Asia. In addition, KLIA began operations nearly 11 weeks prior to the start of the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. (That edition of the longtime multi-sport event — involving athletes from England and many of its former colonies and dependencies — was the first one to be held in an Asian country.)

KLIA, covering a total of 39 square miles (100 square kilometers) is Malaysia’s largest airport. It is also one of the world’s 25 busiest airports in terms of passenger traffic. KLIA is managed by the public limited company Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad.

For more information on Kuala Lumpur International Airport, please check out

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