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AirAsia, Borneo, Firefly, Malaysia Airlines (MAS), Sabah, Sarawak, Sarawak Politics, Sarawak Tourism, Sarawakian

Sarawak and Sabah to be major shareholders of MASwings

THE governments of Sarawak and Sabah will become major shareholders of MASwings when it is transformed into a regional airline next year.

This is welcome news as we all know, at present, we Sarawakians and Sabahans are always at the mercy of the airline management teams based in Malaya, who have little consideration for the needs of the people in East Malaysia.

This was particularly evident when Firefly stopped its services to Sarawak despite having an over 90 per cent load factor(!), just because of the AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines (MAS) share swap.

According to a report from The Sun, prominent East Malaysian entrepreneurs are also planning to buy stakes in the revamped MASwings, but the two state governments will continue to hold controlling interests.

The report also said that negotiations are now being carried out to wet-lease (lease with crew, maintenance and fuel) at least four narrow-body jets to enable MASwings to offer flights from Sarawak and Sabah to the peninsula soon!

Now the Boeing 737-800s that Firefly was using to serve East Malaysia are narrow-body planes that could take over 180 passengers. In case you didn’t know,  the (ir)rationalisation exercise of our aviation industry thanks to the share swap also involved stopping Firefly’s jet services. At present the airline is only allowed to run its turboprop services within Malaya.

Firefly has six Boeing 737-800s and two Boeing 737-400s. In fact, last year, the airline had announced an order of 30 Boeing 737-800 aircraft up 2015. This was part of its plans to expand into Malaysian Borneo.

Anyway the introduction of jet services for MASwings is fascinating news. If this comes true, it will be the first time the state governments of East Malaysia will have control over flights on the Kuching to Kuala Lumpur / Kota Kinabalu to Sabah routes at the very least. Plans are apparently afoot for two daily flights on both routes to begin with.

Other routes being discussed are Kuching to Bintulu/Miri and Kuching to KK and KK to Tawau.

The airline is also said to be considering the lease of turboprop planes to add to the six ATR-72s turboprops already operated by MASwings for flights within East Malaysia.

Last month, Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Johari Tun Openg gave his assurance that “there is light at the end of the tunnel” regarding Sarawak’s air connectivity woes.

It is reassuring that this light is beginning to get a little clearer.

The report from The Sun:

Sabah, Sarawak to be major shareholders of MasWings

PETALING JAYA (Nov 23, 2011): Sabah and Sarawak state governments will be the major shareholders of MasWings when the airline becomes a regional airline.

Aviation industry sources told theSun yesterday that the several prominent businessmen from both states have also agreed to buy stakes in the airline which was expected to be relaunched by the middle of next year.

The sources however said that the both state governments will continue to hold a major share of the new airline to ensure that the service would not suffer to ‘whims and fancies of the owners”.

The sources said negotiations were being conducted and were expected to be made public soon.

It was learnt that the plans for the new airline was put in motion after Malaysia Airlines took over the jet service of its subsidiary, Firefly, last month.

The takeover meant Firefly no longer services Sabah and Sarawak, handing back the low fare sector to Air Asia.

Sources told theSun, the decision to end the Firefly service was taken poorly by the people in Sabah and Sarawak, prompting both state governments to lobby Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak to acquire MasWings.

It was learnt that negotiations were being carried to wet-lease at four narrow body jets so the airline could start servicing the Sabah/Sarawak to peninsula route soon. (The wet lease of an aircraft is an arrangement whereby the lessor provides at least some crew, maintenance and fuel.)

Initially it was planned that the airline was to make two daily flights from both Kuching and Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur.

Other routes for the airline may include KK to Tawau, Kuching to Bintulu/Miri and Kuching to KK.

The airline may also lease turbo-props planes to add to the six ATR-72s turbo-props already operated by MASWings for flights in both states.

Meanwhile, in Kuching, Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Openg confirmed that the state may become the major shareholder of the airline.

“At this moment, it is still too premature to say much, but definitely, we will have something in mind,” he told reporters when launching the Sarawak Tourism Calender for 2012 at the Media Room of the State Legislative Assembly.

He said with more shares, the State would have better say in the running of MasWings in its operations.

Abang Johari said if all goes according to plan, MasWings will start operating as a regional airline next year.

“But first, it must acquire at least four jetliners before it can start operating at a regional airline,” he said, adding that currently MASWings is operating a fleet of ATR turbo-prop aircraft.

“As a regional airline, MASWings will have to fly to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hong Kong. These are important hubs in the region,” he added when asked to elaborate on his statement when winding up the debate in the State Legislative Assembly today.

On the Sarawak Tourism Calender, Abang Johari said that his ministry will organise a series of events next year as a prelude to the state’s 50th anniversary in the formation of Malaysia.

“We have declared the year 2013 as a special year to mark the 50th anniversary,” he said.

“Events and festivals will be our major attraction to entice immediate arrivals into the state,” he added.

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