Senai International Airport (JHB), also known as Sultan Ismail International Airport, is the main international airport serving the southern Malaysian state of Johor. It is located in Senai, about 25 kilometers from the state capital, Johor Bahru.

Senai Airport was opened in 1974 and has since undergone several major expansion and renovation projects. Today, it is a modern and efficient airport with a capacity to handle up to 5 million passengers per year.

To cater to the growing demand, Senai Airport is currently undergoing a major expansion project. The project includes the construction of a new terminal building, a new runway, and a new cargo terminal. The expansion project is expected to be completed in 2026 and will increase the airport’s capacity to handle up to 12 million passengers per year.

The airport is currently served by a number of airlines, including AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines, Batik Air, Firefly, and Trans Nusa. It offers both domestic and international flights to destinations on domestic routes such as Kuala Lumpur, Subang, Penang, Kuching, Sibu, Miri, Kota Kinabalu, Tawau, Langkawi, Ipoh, Alor Setar, Bintulu, Kota Bharu, and international routes such as Ho Chi Minh, Bangkok, Jakarta, Surabaya and Guangzhou

Senai Airport is an important economic hub for Johor Bahru and the surrounding region. It supports the tourism industry, provides jobs, and facilitates trade and investment. The airport is also a major gateway for travelers coming to Malaysia and Singapore.

Senai Airport has always played second fiddle to Changi Airport. Changi Airport is one of the busiest and most awarded airports in the world, while Senai Airport is a much smaller and less well-known airport. There are a number of reasons for this:

Changi Airport is located in Singapore, a major global financial and commercial hub. Senai Airport, on the other hand, is located in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, which is an industrial city compared to Singapore.

Changi Airport has a much wider range of flight options and destinations than Senai Airport. Changi Airport is served by over 100 airlines and flies to over 400 destinations worldwide. Senai Airport, on the other hand, is served by a much smaller number of airlines and flies to a much smaller number of destinations.

Changi Airport has a much higher passenger traffic volume than Senai Airport. In 2022, Changi Airport handled over 65 million passengers, while Senai Airport handled just over 4 million passengers.

However, the Rapid Transit System (RTS) Link is expected to be a game changer for Senai Airport. The RTS Link is a cross-border rail transit system that will connect Johor Bahru, Malaysia to Singapore. The RTS Link will make it much easier and faster for people to travel between Johor Bahru and Singapore It is expected to be completed in 2026 and will have a travel time of just 5 minutes between the two cities.

The RTS will give access to Johor residences to Singapore MRT and LRT systems which are also connected to Changi airport. On the other hand, RTS Link makes it easier for Singaporeans to use Senai Airport and treat it as an alternative airport to Changi Airport.

Improve connectivity and accessibility

To achieve the above the Malaysian authority needs to improve connectivity and accessibility to Senai Airport by introducing a rail link between RTS and Senai Airport. The planned RTS station in Johor Bahru is located next to The KTM station in Johor Baharu will give access to Singaporean to the Komuter Selatan which is expected to take off in the year 2025. The nearest KTM station to Senai Airport is KTM Kulai station. Therefore, a shuttle bus can be provided to ferry passengers between Senai Airport and KTM Kulai station.

Ideally, if the authority can connect the Senai Airport to the existing KTM electrified double tracking line, it will boost the accessibility of Singaporeans and Johor residents to patronize Senai Airport. Train service will make it easier and more convenient for passengers to transfer between Senai and Changi airports and can transform Senai Airport into a secondary airport for Singaporeans. 

Once Senai Airport can easily be accessed by Singaporeans, Senai Airport management needs to implement the following strategies to encourage passengers to use Senai Airport.

Increase the number of airlines and flights operating at the airport

Senai Airport Terminal Services (SATS), the custodian of Senai Airport, needs to attract more low-cost carriers to operate at Senai Airport. Low-cost carriers are popular with budget-minded travelers, and they could help to attract more passengers to the airport.

SATS also needs to partner with regional and international airlines to offer connecting flights. This would make it easier for passengers to fly to destinations beyond Senai Airport without having to go through Changi Airport.

Offer competitive fares and services

Senai Airport needs to compete with Changi Airport in price and service quality. This could involve offering lower fares and providing more efficient and convenient services, such as faster check-in and baggage handling.

This can be achieved since the current exchange rate between the Malaysian Ringgit and the Singapore Dollar favors the Malaysian Ringgit. Singaporeans will find it cheaper to fly from Senai compared to Changi due to the high value of the Singapore Dollar. Furthermore, the airport charges or fees for Senai Airport are far cheaper than Changi Airport.

Market Senai Airport effectively

Senai Airport needs to let potential passengers know about its advantages, such as its proximity to Johor Bahru and Singapore, its connectivity to local and international routes, and as well as its much cheaper airport charges or fees which will translate into competitive fares and charges

To achieve this a constant aggressive marketing campaign via social media needs to be developed and launched in Singapore and all the available destinations that are connected to the airport.

The RTS link project is a project that will boost Southern Johor’s economy and by implementing the above strategies, Senai Airport can position itself as a viable alternative to Changi Airport for Singaporean and international travelers.






Mohamed Ismail KP Hj Pakir Mohamed

Senior Lecturer

Faculty of Technology Management & Business

Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM)