One of Malaysia’s tourist trump cards, Penang – the northern gateway to Malaysia – is unquestionably popular. The oldest British settlement in the country and Malaysia’s smallest state, Penang’s landscape is that of golden, palm-fringed beaches, sprawling beachside mansions and resorts, a jungle-clad interior and a capital (Georgetown) housing Southeast Asia’s largest collection of pre-war houses. One of the country’s only states to have a Chinese majority populace, the state is divided into two strips – the 738sqkm mainland (Province Wellesley) and the island (Pulau Pinang). Dubbed ‘The Pearl of the Orient’, locals will tell you that Penang fare is the best in the country – and they’re not wrong; hawker food on the island is varied and beyond comparison.
Voted one of the 44 must-see destinations in the world in 2009 by New York Times readers, Penang’s popularity is indisputable. The advent of cheap airfares has resulted in more and more people heading to the island for weekend trips. Based in the Penang’s Free Industrial Zone, where the factories of numerous multinational factories are located, the Penang International Airport is one of the main gateways into Penang. Located in Bayan Lepas – about 20 minutes away (16km) from the state capital (Georgetown) – the Penang International Airport (previously known as the Bayan Lepas International Airport) is the island’s only terminal for flights in and out of Penang.
The third busiest airport in the country (after KLIA and Kota Kinabalu Airport) Penang International mainly serves low cost carriers such as AirAsia and Firefly but the country’s main carrier, MAS, also operates flights to KL. Besides more than 20 daily flights between Kuala Lumpur and Penang, the airport has connections to Singapore, Bangkok, Nagoyra, Medan, Xiamen (China), Madras and more. A compact airport with utilitarian facilities, Penang International comprises a single two-level terminal building – arrivals are on the ground floor while departures are on the first. The airport has an incoming and outgoing duty-free shop along the departure concourse; there are also a few restaurants in the publicly accessible and air-side departure areas including a McDonald's and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf bistro on the second floor. Other facilities include a bank, a foreign exchange office and a car rental counter.
Penang International Airport is basically a single, long and narrow concourse with about a dozen sky bridges; most planes dock at the terminal and use these bridges. However, smaller planes will park off one end, from where you’ll have to walk across the outdoor tarmac to get to the terminal. Domestic and international passengers (arriving or departing) utilise the main concourse while international passengers are directed to immigration counters on the lower level. Meanwhile, baggage claim counters are a short walk behind immigration, after which is customs and the main arrival hall.
Penang International Airport’s departure hall is located on the first floor. There are screens beside each main entryway denoting counters where you can check-in for your flight. Passengers go through a security screening (metal detection and baggage scanning) to access the check-in counters.
The domestic and international gates are beside each other at the far end of the terminal – only passengers with tickets are allowed beyond this point. After these gates, international passengers have to pass through immigration and all passengers will go through a second security screening before gaining access to the departure lounge.