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Sandakan Airport joins the 1 Million Passenger Per Annum Club!

Crossing the 1 million passenger per annum (mppa) milestone might not be a big thing for international and main airports in Malaysia like KLIA, Langkawi, Penang, Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Kota Bharu. But the fact remains that there are not many airports in Malaysia especially non state capital cities have been able to cross the 1 million milestone.

So when Sandakan Airport, located just a few KMs away from the beautiful Sandakan city in Sabah, was able to reach the 1 million mark on 23rdDecember 2019, it calls for a major celebration. After all, this achievement is a success of a good collaboration, coordination and aspiration in driving Sandakan as a tourist and business destination.

Thanks to Sandakan Tourism Association (STAN), AzuanZahdi.com was invited to be part of this memorable day for Sandakan Airport, the local authorities, Government stakeholders, airlines and of course STAN.

It was my first trip to Sandakan, so the event was also a perfect  way for me to have a glimpse on what Sandakan has to offer as a destination.

With multiple direct daily flights from KL operated by AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines, getting to Sandakan has never been easier. KL and Kota Kinabalu also serve as the main transit points for foreign tourists visiting Sandakan so this is bound to grow especially 2020 being a Visit Malaysia Year.

Fast forward a few hours later, we were personally welcomed at the airport. A quick chat with the few that we met at the airport upon arrival, from an Immigration officer to an airline representative, everyone seems to be aware of the 1 million passengers celebration happening and clearly the airport was in a jovial celebration mood!

This is the departure hall, as you can see Sandakan is one of the few airports with modern klia2-like passenger seats thanks to its interior upgrade works few years back.

Thanks to the ever friendly team from STAN, Malaysia Airports and CAAM Sandakan, I was able to get the best view of the Sandakan airport terminal, specially for all of you the loyal followers of AzuanZahdi.com

23.12.2019, SDK getting ready to celebrate pax no 1 million.

The game plan was simple. 3 pre-determined flights from 3 different airlines, the last passenger from each flight would be celebrated as the special passenger and given great prizes including return tickets to Taipei!

None of the passengers knew about it so it was a very random and pleasant surprise. Making the event more special, the passengers were welcomed personally by Sandakan Member of Parliament YB Vivian Wong, Sandakan Airport Manager En. Suhaimi Abdul Sani, STAN’s President Mr CK Teoh and other family members/stakeholders of Sandakan Airport.

Why I prefer to use the term “Sandakan Airport family” is simply because unlike in KLIA, it is common for smaller airports to have a very close family-like working environment despite wearing different hats and representing different airlines, agencies and service providers. And it was pretty obvious in Sandakan airport as well with the team working closely to ensure the success of the event.

Kickstarting the celebration, the first flight being a Malindo Air flight from Kota Kinabalu.

The 3 signature mascots of Sandakan surprising the passengers.

And we have our lucky passenger #1!

Minutes later, it was time to surprise the passengers of the second flight, another flight from Kota Kinabalu, this time from Malaysia Airlines.

The passengers were delighted with the special welcome judging from the number of high fives, selfies and interactions with the VIPs and mascots.

Lucky passenger #2!

The excitement was high by the time the 3rd flight docked into the terminal. An AirAsia flight from KL. There were some concerns about fast turnaround time and after a long flight passengers just might want to get out from the terminal soonest possible and not interested with any welcoming party at the gate.

How will the pax react? Will the surprise works?

It doesn’t take long before we figured out the answer. Thankfully, the passengers, from adults to kids, were mostly smiling and happy to go through the experience.

“look mummy… I’m with Orang Utan and Sun Bear!”

YB Vivian saying hi to the passengers

And we have our last lucky pax. Just came back from his Umrah, he walked away as the lucky winner from this 3rdflight.

Despite the fast turnaround, the team was able to pull this through. The crew from AirAsia were even happy to strike a pose for the album.

And perhaps the cute mascots taking one for their personal album with this lovely looking crew of AirAsia.

“Siapa lah mascot tu eh!” 😛


Just kidding, I was told that the mascots were part-timers from a nearby unis taking up tourism courses. Well done guys for willing to learn from an actual event and may you guys graduate to become enablers in our tourism industry.

Back at the main concourse of the terminal, winners and passengers were treated with a simple ceremony with video presentation, speeches and quizzes and more giveaways.

With the upcoming runway extension works coming into the picture, Sandakan is in the right path to grow as far as passenger movement is concerned. As Royal Brunei already being Sandakan’s first international route and a charter service coming in soon, expect more international direct flights to be established.  Once the longer runway operates, the prospect of flights from China, Korea and Australia would spur more possibilities and this is very much in-line with the various efforts in attracting visitors from these countries for VMY2020.

For now, let’s celebrate Sandakan’s success and enjoy this moment. Congratulations Sandakan for achieving the 1mppa mark!

You might wonder, what is so great about Sandakan that it kept attracting more visitors especially foreign tourists. To help answer this question, let me give you a glimpse of the beauty of Sandakan as a destination in my next few blog posts.

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Over the years, I have created some aviation related videos of my experience flying.