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Countdown for Kuala Namu, Medan new international airport

Indonesia’s first integrated airport is set to be operational in North Sumatra by March providing relief to Medan current airport in Polonia, a crowded ageing facility.

MEDAN- How to accommodate every year close to 7 million air passengers in facilities which were design to barely accommodate two million of air travellers? This is the conundrum that airport’s authorities at Medan Polonia have been forced to face over the last 15 years. Economic boom and rising standard of living have boosted airport traffic out of Medan. But also turned the small airport –built during the Dutch time-into a nightmare to manage. Over the last decade, traffic more than tripled, soaring from just two million to over 7.5 million in 2012.

Necessity to build a  new airport emerged from the late nineties, especially as mortal crashes of aircraft occurred around Medan. The future airport was choosen 35 km north of Medan in Kuala Namu. Due to first be completed by 2010, the airport’s opening has been delayed at least four times as authorities struggled to find the right financing, then to acquire land and to finally connect the airport by both a tollway road and a train line. 

Kuala Namu is due to become Indonesia’s second largest airport after Jakarta with an ultimate annual capacity for 50 million passengers. In its first opening phase, the airport will then be able to accommodate 9 million passengers, a number which will be likely to be reached by 2015. The second phase will see an increase in capacity by 80% to 14 million passengers.

Latest hurdle into the airport was reported last week by the Jakarta Post:  the government was trying to come to a solution to acquire additional land for a 300-meter road to link Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, with the Kuala Namu International Airport. The government was already rebuked by locals as it wanted to expropriate land owners to build a new toll road. The new link will now have four lanes (two in each direction). The road is due to be opened to the public by March, the month of official airport’s inauguration. In total, Kuala Namu wil represent a total investment of US$ 571 million.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.