KUALA LUMPUR: Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen International Airport (ISG) in Turkey is expected to be an important contributor to Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd’s financial sustainability as the airport operator goes through the recovery phase.
Group chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Shukrie Mohd Salleh said ISG’s presence in MAHB’ network of airports had contributed significantly to its sustainability during the challenging times caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
ISG contributed about 30 per cent to MAHB group’s revenue as at last September, Mohd Shukrie said, adding that the contribution had risen since the pandemic.
“We have seen encouraging recovery in the last few months. ISG has shown commendable resilience in weathering the impact of the pandemic. In the last 11 months, it recorded 16.0 million passengers and in November 2020 was named the fifth busiest airport in Europe,” he told the New Straits Times recently.
ISG is also the second busiest airport in Turkey, underpinned by the resumption of domestic air travel since June 2020 despite the closure of international borders.
“ISG contributed 80 per cent of the group’s total passenger traffic of 1.8 million in November 2020 and its domestic traffic is already at 60 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels.
“The encouraging recovery in ISG attributed to its position as a fast-growing and popular city airport as it is strategically located within the vicinity of the top four industrial cities in Turkey,” he said.
Mohd Shukrie said ISG was an important and strategic investment for MAHB.
The airport will benefit from several group-wide strategic plans such as the Airport 4.0 digital initiatives to improve operational efficiency for seamless and contactless airport journey.
“We believe investors will remain confident in seeing ISG’s value to the group. Since its full acquisition in December 2014, it has recorded significant milestones.
“In 2019, passenger traffic movements grew to 35.9 million, with 174 routes globally,” he said, adding that ISG has connectivity to more than 130 direct destinations in 41 countries.
ISG was and remains Turkey’s second busiest airport as well as its busiest for domestic traffic.
It was also ranked 12th busiest in Europe last year and this position improved further in 2020 to becoming one of Europe’s top five busiest airports arising from its commendable recovery during the pandemic.
“We expedite the current digital initiatives and developments at ISG that focus on passenger health and safety in the new normal. Some of the digital initiatives include e-passport gates to reduce long queues and wait time at critical touchpoints.
“We have also deployed intelligent robot technology called Aerobot to assist passengers with automated navigation through the airport and provide information on airport safety measures,” he said.
MAHB has plans to boost the non-aeronautical revenue from ISG through an alternative source of revenue such as e-commerce platform by uplifting the commercial profile of the airport.
“We plan to bring more global brands to the airport as befits its status as a city airport serving a large catchment of the metropolitan area,” he said.
The latest global brands to join the airport include Swiss-based Dufry, the world’s largest travel retail and duty-free player and Malaysia’s homegrown but now Hong Kong-based Plaza Premium Group, a global leader in providing hospitality services at airports worldwide.
“On top of this, the completion of the ISG’s second runway next year and future planned terminal expansion to ultimately accommodate 65 million passengers per year will increase the airport’s capacity both at the terminal and airside allowing it to cater to future growth.
“We believe the completion of the second runway and the second terminal building as well as the availability of the metro link to the airport, ISG’s reputation in Turkey, Europe and the Middle East as an emerging city airport and multi-modal transport hub will be further strengthened,” he said.
Upon the completion of the second runway, ISG is poised to double its flight capacity with the increasing number of international passengers, thus welcoming new airlines and enabling existing airlines to add new routes and increase frequencies.
The growth potential of Pegasus Airlines, which uses ISG as a hub, will also be another significant catalyst to boost the airport’s operation.
With the continued support given by the Turkish government for its aviation sector, Istanbul has turned into one the most important tourism destinations in the world and the main attractions, especially among Arab tourists.
Mohd Shukrie said MAHB was committed to ensuring full readiness of its facilities and services at all its network of airports once global borders fully re-open and travel picks up again.
Among the standard safety measures are thermal screening, physical distancing and providing sanitising stations as well as ensuring proper air ventilation throughout the terminal.
ISG registered 16.0 million passengers between January and November 2020 compared to 33.1 million recorded in the same period a year ago.
Of this, 11.1 million were domestic passengers and 4.9 million were international passengers recorded during the first of 11 months of 2020. This showed that ISG has recovered about half of its pre-Covid-19 levels.
“We remain upbeat on ISG’s future post-Covid-19, as air travel will always be in high demand especially from business travellers.
“Covid-19 may have changed the landscape of the industry, but the industry-wide robust response, measures taken, coupled with resilient demand and improved confidence for travel as well as the recent success rate of vaccines, lend hope that the worst may be behind us and spells a better future of the industry,” he said.
Mohd Shukrie said MAHB expected domestic traffic in Turkey to revive gradually followed by international traffic at ISG, backed by the commissioning of the second runway by end of 2021, which will increase flight movements and passenger traffic.