GEORGE TOWN, March 16 — Penang International Airport (PIA) today welcomed its first passengers travelling under the new Singapore-Penang Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) by Air programme.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) managing director Datuk Iskandar Mizal Mahmood lauded the VTL by Air programme by the government to stimulate international traffic and tourism leading to economic growth.

“The programme (VTL) to include Penang will contribute to the revitalisation of our tourism industry as Penang is also a gateway to the northern states, so this can benefit Kedah, Perak and Perlis as well.

“As a start, we are expecting between 1,000 and 2,000 VTL passenger movements during the first week of operations,” he said in a statement here today.

Iskandar also said the VTL programme is good for encouraging international travel within safe parameters.

“While our borders will reopen on April 1, 2022, this programme will be beneficial for travel between Malaysia and countries that have not fully opened their borders.

“Similar to KLIA, PIA now has a private health screening service operator at the airport to provide Covid-19 screening tests and we have also obtained approval from the authorities to implement the ‘Test and Release’ arrival process for all VTL by Air programmes,” he said.

Iskandar said as the nation transitions into the Covid-19 endemic phase and gears up for the reopening of borders, MAHB will be working closely with the authorities to facilitate a smooth airport experience for all passengers while ensuring the required safety protocols and health processes are implemented accordingly to keep everyone safe.

The “Test and Release” arrival process, effective today (March 16), allows passengers to immediately leave the airport to their declared accommodation upon clearing immigration without having to wait for their Covid-19 RT-PCR screening test results at the airport.

Once the test result is confirmed to be negative, their HSO status in the MySejahtera app will be lifted by the authorities within 24 hours and they can proceed with their activities freely.

The maiden VTL flight from Singapore to arrive at PIA was AirAsia’s AK1730. It touched down at 6.40 pm today, carrying about 60 passengers under the programme.

The aircraft received a water cannon salute while passengers were greeted with mementoes to mark the special occasion.

Penang is the second Malaysian destination after Kuala Lumpur under the Singapore-Malaysia VTL programme.

There are four airlines operating under this programme, namely Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Singapore Airlines and Scoot.

In terms of international passenger traffic, PIA is the second busiest airport in the country after KL International Airport (KLIA). — Bernama