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AirAsia, Borneo, Firefly, Kuching, Malaysia Airlines (MAS), Sarawak, Sarawak Tourism

MASwings gets go ahead to be regional airline

WELL the Federal Government has given its approval to Sarawak’s proposal to convert MASwings into a regional airline for BIMP-EAGA.

This means that the airline, which has been servicing mostly rural areas in Sarawak and Sabah, will soon get to fly to Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines as well.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Abang Openg also revealed that MASwings would get to fly by extension to Australia as well!

Although he did not divulge more details during the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) sitting, it is good to know that the State government has taken note of the issues at hand and are proactively trying to find a resolution to our air connectivity woes.

And why is Sarawak in this state you may ask if you have not been following this issue? Well the (ir)rationalisation exercise of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia of course.

The unholy alliance of their share swap has left Sarawakians and the State’s tourism industry in the lurch. Air connectivity was already not at its best, but this latest dirty deal, which the airlines declared publicly would not affect us, has done the exact opposite.

As many of you know, because of the deal, Firefly, which had been serving us well, had to stop flying to the State!

This is what Datuk Amar Abang Johari had to say: “With the termination of Firefly flights into Kuching (which ran seven times daily) from Kuala Lumpur and Johor (twice daily), accessibility into the state will be adversely affected, bearing in mind the favourable load factor of at least 90 per cent on Firefly flights.

“The vacuum left by Firefly will definitely affect the number of visitor arrivals into Sarawak especially for the coming months.”

At least a 90 per cent load factor and they stopped the service? How rational is that? The Firefly flights were almost full and yet the airline is prevented from serving the State?

Before I get even more carried away regarding the loss of Firefly, the main point here is that the Sarawak government is not going to passively accept what has happened because of the share swap in Malaya.

Datuk Amar Abang Johari also said he would meet with Sabah Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment Datuk Masidi Manjun to discuss the organisational structure and routes for the restructured regional airline model.

A report from The Sun:

MASwings gets go ahead to be regional airline

By Sulok Tawie

KUCHING (Nov 22, 2011): The Federal Government has agreed to Sarawak’s proposal for MASWings to become a regional airline, operating within the BIMP EAGA region.

Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Abang Openg announced this while winding up the debate in the Sarawak State Legislative Assembly today.

However, he declined to reveal more about the details, saying it involves a lot of technical formalities.

Abang Johari said he will be meeting with his counterpart in Sabah to discuss the organisational structure and the routes which is aimed at enhancing commerce, trade and tourism for Sabah and Sarawak, while connecting Kalimantan, Brunei, Philippines and by extension, to Australia in the future.

“I had said give me three months to sort out the problems arising from the MAS-AirAsia collaboration and I am pleased to say that I have fulfilled my task – at least by obtaining the federal government’s approval to make MASwings as a regional player,” he said.

Abang Johari thanked the Federal Government, particularly Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak, for agreeing to the state’s proposal..

He said that air connectivity will continue to be the biggest challenge in Sarawak’s effort to promote itself as a sustainable tourism destination.

“All our promotional and marketing efforts will be futile if we are not well connected to the main airline hubs and frequency of flights are constantly interrupted,” he said.

He said the recent collaboration exercise and share swap between MAS and Air Asia has already created uncertainty and anxiety among the state’s tourism players.

He said travel agents have to plan and sell their packages abroad well in advance therefore any cancellation of flights is detrimental to consumer confidence in the state’s tourism industry.

“With the termination of Firefly flights into Kuching (which ran seven time daily) from Kuala Lumpur and Johore (twice daily), accessibility into the state will be adversely affected, bearing in mind the favourable load factor of at least 90% on Firefly flights.

“The vacuum left by Firefly will definitely affect the number of visitor arrivals into Sarawak especially for the coming months,” he said.

Abang Johari said the State Tourism Ministry had adopted a number of action plans to minimise the impact of the termination of Firefly flights to Kuching.

These include the continuation to engage with MAS and Air Asia to ensure that the frequency of flights into Sarawak is not interrupted and to explore the possibility of opening new routes.

He said he will lead a special delegation to meet with the relevant federal agencies to express and convey Sarawak’s concern and the need to give priority to air travel and air connectivity into Sarawak in view of the state’s geographical size and lack of a comprehensive road network.

“My ministry is also looking into the feasibility and viability of introducing amphibious planes to serve selected remote tourism destinations such as Batang-Ai and Bakun to value add visitors’ experience,” he said.

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