Airport review: KLIA2, Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2, Malaysia

Our rating

3.5 out of 5

OFFICIAL

IATA CODE KUL

THE FLIGHT

AK528 to Ho Chi Minh City, economy class

THE ARRIVAL

Anyone who had the misfortune of visiting the old LCCT, or Low-Cost Carrier Terminal, at Kuala Lumpur International would sink to their knees and give thanks at the sight of KLIA2, the $1.3 billion terminal that was purpose-built for budget carriers like Air Asia back in 2014. The LCCT was a nightmare, a glorified cowshed accessible only via a tortuous bus ride from the main terminal. KLIA2, meanwhile, is connected to Kuala Lumpur, and the main airport, via high-speed rail; the KLIA Ekspres costs RM55 ($18) and takes 39 minutes to whisk me in from KL Sentral. It's air-conditioned, it's comfortable, it's great.

THE LOOK

KLIA2 is nothing special. In fact, it's quite bland and boxy in design, with nothing in particular to recommend it – except that it isn't the LCCT, and for that it receives maximum points. This is a functional terminal rather than a beautiful one, with long walks to most of the gates (without the help of travelators), and a paucity of facilities once you're inside.

CHECK-IN

The departure hall at KLIA2 is roomy and not too chaotic on the morning I arrive after spending a few nights on an extended stopover in KL. Check-in is available at the counter only, and there's a fair queue to get there. Still, staff are polite and helpful, and it doesn't take too long to shuffle through.

SECURITY

This is a low-cost terminal, so you expect queues, and KLIA2 doesn't disappoint. There are long lines at both Customs and security, but such is life when you've paid about $100 to soar through the air from one country to another.

FOOD AND DRINK

First, a piece of advice: don't wait until you've cleared Customs to grab a bite. There's not much available within the terminal at KLIA2. Just outside, however, there's Gateway@klia2, a large shopping complex that's connected to both the terminal and train station. This is where the good stuff is. I decide to order a nasi lemak – the traditional Malaysian breakfast of rice with egg, peanuts, dried anchovies, cucumber, chilli sauce and beef rendang – from Old Town White Coffee, and it's delicious. There's equally good Malay fare at Hometown Hainan Coffee, Isaac Toast & Coffee, and PappaRich, plus a whole plethora of other options ranging from Chinese to Japanese to US-style takeaway. The eating here is seriously good, and given you probably won't be fed on your budget flight, it's worth loading up before departure.

RETAIL THERAPY

Much like the food options, shopping in the actual terminal at KLIA2 is fairly limited – however, the Gateway mall has everything you're looking for. This sprawling, multi-level space is like any other shopping complex in KL, with fashion outlets, banks, pharmacies, bookstores, camera and electronics shops, and, of course, food and beverage outlets. About the only thing you'll need to wait for on the airside of the terminal is duty-free shopping, which isn't amazing.

Advertisement

KILLING TIME

KLIA2 is a budget-carrier terminal, so it makes sense that the onsite hotels would be similarly wallet-friendly. Airside, there's Sama-Sama Express Hotel, where rooms can be rented in six-hour blocks. Landside, both Tune Hotel and Capsule By Container are affordable, and walking distance from the terminal, while Aerotel is a new property set within the Gateway Mall. There are also two paid-entry Plaza Premium Lounges in the airport, and free Wi-Fi throughout. And central Kuala Lumpur is only a 40-minute train ride away.

ONE MORE THING

It's worth remembering that passengers flying out of KLIA2 can also access all of the landside facilities at KLIA, Kuala Lumpur's main airport. The terminal is only a short train ride away, and features more hotels, more lounges, and plenty of duty-free shopping and restaurant options.

THE VERDICT

KLIA2 will never compare to the major Asian airports – but then, it's not supposed to. This is a budget-carrier terminal, and it's an excellent one. The landside restaurants and shopping facilities are world-class, and the access to central KL is superb. The terminal itself is spare on amenities and requires the odd marathon transit, but you can forgive that for the price.

OUR RATING 3.5/5

See also: Airport review: Melbourne T4 is modern, spacious, and infuriating

See also: Airport review: Disappointing Dubai International