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AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines (MAS), Sarawak Tourism, Sarawakian

Firefly may give up on Sarawak

IT is indeed saddening to read that Firefly could be pulling out of Sarawak!

If I remember correctly, the airline’s inaugural flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching was last January.

I’ve been on that flight twice – once for work and once because it was such a great deal that I could actually afford to travel to KL.

Then they introduced their Kuching-JB and KL-Sibu flights.

Many of us rejoiced at the better connectivity but mostly because of the much better deals!

We didn’t have to rely just on MAS and AirAsia to travel within Malaysia.

I never really understood the details of the recent share-swap deal between the two airlines.

I just remember there was some public relations line about how the deal would not mean a monopoly etc. How they would optimise resources for the good of passengers …

Does that mean pulling Firefly out of Sarawak? The community airline has done a great job in fulfilling a need.

If the news report is true, it is indeed sad for Sarawak travellers and Sarawak tourism.

 

Firefly could be pulling out of Sarawak after just four months of operations

By Yu Ji

KUCHING: Firefly, Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) two-year-old community airline, has started cancelling routes between the peninsula and Sarawak, with the first cancellation starting on Sept 16.

A Firefly staff confirmed yesterday that the Kuching-Johor Baru flight will be the first to be stopped.

The staff, who declined to be named, said Kuching-Johor Baru ticket holders for flights after Sept 16 had two options.

“There has been a lot of enquiries,” he said.

“We (staff) have been told to tell the ticket holders that they can either ask for a refund or be transferred to the Kuching-Kuala Lumpur flight and then onboard the Kuala Lumpur-Johor Baru flight.”

Concerned ticket holders of Firefly’s Kuching-Kuala Lumpur and Sibu-Kuala Lumpur flights are being told to “wait and see”, he added.

A statement from Firefly’s media relations department on the cancellations yesterday said: “We are unable to comment on any network rationalisation. On that subject, only our parent company MAS can announce statements.”

A check on Firefly’s website revealed that six Kuching-Kuala Lumpur daily flights were still listed as available on and after Sept 16, as well as the twice daily Sibu-Kuala Lumpur flights.

For the MAS community airline, the Sarawakian routes are practically brand new.

The Johor Baru-Kuching flight commenced in May, while the Sibu-Kuala Lumpur flight was just added in July with promises of more flights before the end of the year. The flights were much hyped by the federal and state tourism authorities.

Sarawak Tourism Federation president Audry Wan Ullok said she was concerned over the developments.

“It was once good that they (Firefly and AirAsia) were competing against each other,” Audry said.

“I’ve not been given much information about the whole thing, except that state authorities are hoping MASWings will be expanded to become a regional carrier.”

Audry said the cancellation of affordable flights would hit Sarawak badly.

“Most tourists can’t drive here, can they? Air accessibility is such an important factor to us.”

She said there would be a huge hue and cry if the flight rationalisation was not handled properly.

There had been speculations that Firefly could pull out under the proposed share-swap between AirAsia and MAS announced last month.

At the same time, there had been talk that Firefly might restrict its operation to just turbo-engined aircraft and that new airline, Sapphire, would be introduced to take over domestic routes.

Meanwhile, Tourism and Heritage Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg is rumoured to have told industry players recently that state authorities would engage with more foreign airlines to shore up flight connectivity.

The upgrades to Kuching International Airport, which was completed two years ago to allow bigger aircraft to land, would help towards that end, he said.

Johari’s plan to lead a MASwings delegation to the Maldives to explore the island-nation’s use of amphibious aircraft was still on track for this month.

The state wants MASwings to fly directly between Sarawak’s major airports and its new dams like Bakun and Murum, which will be part of the state’s eco-tourism offerings.

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