IT is good to read that the State government is seriously looking into a solution for Sarawak’s air connectivity woes, thanks to the so-called rationalisation exercise by MAS and AirAsia – which to me as a Sarawakian is more like an irrational exercise in forcing us to settle for a lack of options when it comes to air travel.
Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg has confirmed that the state is looking into the possibility of a regional airline.
Although he could not reveal further details, he did say that the State is in talks with “a very important player”.
Two weeks ago there were calls for the State to upgrade Hornbill Skyways into a full-fledged commercial airline to serve the needs of Sarawakians.
Last week, the Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) and other industry players submitted three memoranda expressing their concerns to MAS, the state government and the federal government.
STF called for the state government to formulate a formal aviation policy and strategy in order to protect the state’s economic interests, especially in the tourism sector.
Federation president Audry Wan Ulok said STF also hoped the state government would seriously consider setting up a new airline to serve the needs of the state, in view of Sarawak’s poor air connectivity and the possible emergence of a domestic airline cartel that prioritises services focused on Peninsular Malaysia.
“The state government could take a controlling interest in a new airline and seek an established airline operator as a joint-venture partner to manage the new Sarawak-based airline.
“In view of our geographical location, air accessibility and connectivity is vital for Sarawak in the areas of trade, travel and tourism. Moreover, it serves to promote national integration as well as having an important social function to reunite families, within and outside of Sarawak,” she told a press conference as reported by Borneo Post on Oct 6.
This latest development with confirmation from the Minister is looking very positive and gives great hope to Sarawakians who are definitely dependent on air travel within the State and also to go to other parts of the country.
I’ll definitely keep close tabs on this topic and I think we should all keep the pressure up so that the Malaya-centric airlines can no longer hold us at ransom.
The story from The Star:
Regional airline solution
By Sharon Ling
KUCHING: The state is working on a solution to the flight woes faced by Sarawak in the wake of the route rationalisation exercise by MAS and AirAsia.
Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari said he was in discussions on a possible option to resolve the situation.
However, he said he could not reveal any details yet as the talks were confidential and involved “a very important player”.
“We are still in the process of preparing our next move. Hopefully, we may get good news but I can’t reveal at the moment what we’re going to do, except that we feel that the state is looking into the possibility of a regional airline.
“How it will be done, let us do it. We are tackling the problem,” he told reporters at the Borneo International Beads Conference’s gala dinner on Saturday night.
Johari was asked to comment on the route rationalisation following the share swap between MAS and AirAsia, which had led to reduced flight frequencies to Sarawak.
The state’s tourism and hotel sectors had raised concerns over the matter as reduced flights meant fewer visitor arrivals.
In addition, they were concerned that abrupt flight cancellations and lack of communication from the airlines on their plans were causing uncertainty in the industry.
Earlier this week, the Sarawak Tourism Federation and other industry players submitted three memoranda expressing their concerns to MAS, the state government and the Federal Government.
Johari said he was looking into the memorandum, adding that the state had its own option.
“In the memorandum, they want an aviation policy, but to us, we have a solution to the problem we are facing. But let us do it first, then I will reveal (it) later,” he said.
Asked how long it would take, he said he needed one or two months.
It is hoped that MASwings would be a solution if it could be developed into a regional airline.
Johari had said last month that the state was urging the Transport Ministry to grant permission to MASwings to become a regional carrier serving Sarawak, Sabah and the BIMP-EAGA area.
On Budget 2012, Johari said it was comprehensive and would benefit the people.
As Housing Minister, he welcomed the proposal to build 10,000 units of Rumah Mesra Rakyat, saying that Sarawak was likely to get a part of this.
“I also welcome the allocation for the revival of abandoned housing projects,” he said, adding that on the whole the Budget would stimulate the nation’s economy.