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Borneo, Firefly, Sabah, Sarawak, Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), Sarawak Tourism, Sarawakian

Federal Government pledges not to neglect Sarawak’s air connectivity

IT is reassuring to read that the Federal Government has pledged not to neglect Sarawak’s air connectivity needs.

To have this reassurance after the State government has worked so hard to ensure there is a solution to Sarawak’s flight woes is indeed a very positive sign. It shows that both the State and Federal Governments are on the same page.

And as a Sarawakian, having Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri — a Sabahan and the MP for Kudat — give this pledge is also somehow more reassuring because he would really understand how East Malaysians feel about the issue.

Datuk Abdul Rahim has said that MASwings, which will be revamped to become a regional airline with Sarawak and Sabah as major shareholders, will pick up where Firefly left off.

“There is no need to worry about air connectivity in East Malaysia. MASwings will pick up where Firefly has left off. I assure you that passenger convenience and air services will not be disturbed,” he said.

Interestingly, he also indicated that there could be a possibility for a Sibu-Singapore non-stop flight.

Besides local airlines, the Deputy Minister said that SilkAir, which is owned by Singapore Airlines, is also considering taking up the route.

Now that’s interesting. Greater air connectivity should not only mean accessible routes for Kuching International Airport. The airports in Sibu, Miri and Bintulu should also get some flights to gateways like KL and Singapore for greater convenience. But of course this would depend on demand.

However, with developments under the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE), it would definitely make sense for there to be such routes for the central region in particular.

The timing is also rather good because the west wing of the extended Sibu Airport will be operational on Dec 19.

Datuk Abdul Rahim said the extension and improvement of the airport at a cost of RM136.8mil had been progressing ahead of schedule and that the whole project is expected to be completed next September.

Once completed, the airport will have four aero-bridges, 18 check-in counters, 14 immigration counters and two baggage handling systems.

The airport  would then serve as a hub for air travel in the Sarawak’s central region.

Concrete plans for transformation. Isn’t it good to see that the government has clear vision?

How the Borneo Post reported it:

Sibu-Singapore route a possibility – Deputy Minister

By Peter Boon

SIBU: The much-awaited Sibu/Singapore direct flight may become a reality soon as Silk Airlines is believed to be eyeing the route, said Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim yesterday.

“There is a possibility of Sibu/Singapore flight, not only by our airlines but I believe Silk Airlines is also eyeing it. But then again, this is very much dependent on demand.

“Airlines will come based on demand and being private operators they need to see if the route is economically viable,” Abdul Rahim told a press conference.

He added that airlines were now more cost-conscious as the price of fuel had rocketed to US$130 per barrel.

“As far as the national carrier is concerned, I think our commitment is always there. You can be sure there will be more airlines from the region in time to come,” he said.

On a related matter, he revealed that MAS was gradually taking over FireFly (FF) routes.

“Some of the routes are handled by FF but due to certain decisions recently, it is not continuing jet operations and has concentrated on its original core business that is propeller aircraft operations within the Peninsula and neighbouring Indonesia pending outcome of discussion and mapping out of strategies,” he noted.

He said that under the new collaborative framework between MAS and AirAsia (although no details are available yet as a high level discussion is on-going), rationalisation of FF was already taking place.

He noted that a series of jet operations conducted by FF would be withdrawn and most of the aircrafts would be returned to MAS.

“But people need not worry as the air connectivity and services will not in anyway be affected,” assured Abdul  Rahim.

He also said as far as air connectivity within East Malaysia was concerned, there was no cause for alarm as MASwings was flying the routes.

“MASwings is also the operator for subsidised rural air services for Sabah and Sarawak. And there is no reduction in flight frequency for MASwings.”

Meanwhile, managing director of Equitorial Tours and Travel Sdn Bhd Robert Tan told The Borneo Post that MAS reinstated its Sibu/KL route yesterday.

“FireFly stopped flying the route yesterday (Dec 4), and the reinstatement of MAS is certainly a piece of good news for air travellers and travel agents.

“For months, travellers had been hard pressed by the problem of connectivity to overseas destinations, and thousands of students and travellers were at their wits’ end due to the luggage connectivity problem,” lamented Tan.

The story from The Star:

Sibu Airport extension to be operational on Dec 19

By Phillip Hii

SIBU: The west wing of the extended Sibu Airport will become operational on Dec 19.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said the extension and improvement of the airport at a cost of RM136.8mil had been progressing well and ahead of schedule.

Rahim disclosed that the first package which consisted of extension works to the existing passenger terminal building, central utilities building and associated works was now 58.75% completed while the second package comprising works to improve airside and landside facilities and the Department of Civil Aviation’s building was 44.5% completed.

“The work is 2.25% ahead of schedule for package 1 and 2% ahead for package 2. We expect the whole project to be completed on September 19 next year,” he said at a press conference after being briefed by Sibu Airport officials.

Abdul Rahim stressed that once completed, the airport with four aero-bridges, 18 check-in counters, 14 immigration counters and two baggage handling systems would serve as a hub for air travel in the state’s central region.

“The new Sibu Airport would be able to handle up to 1.9mil passengers a year as compared to about one million now,” Rahmin said, adding that it would enhance the value of the airport and increased revenue for Malaysia Airport Berhad.

He said as the gateway to eco-tourism in the hinterland, Sibu Airport was well-positioned to receive tourists in chartered flights from Asean countries and even China and India.

“We expect more passengers and businesses when Asean member countries adopt an open sky policy in 2015,” said Rahim.

He said the Federal Government would not neglect air travel in Sarawak and Sabah.

“There is no need to worry about air connectivity in East Malaysia. MASwings will pick up where Firefly has left off. I assure you that passenger convenience and air services will not be disturbed,” he said.

He further said if there was any reduction of flights, the government would re-examine the situation.

Asked on the possibility of a weekly Sibu-Singapore direct flight, Rahim said it all depended on the demand.

He also advised passengers to plan their holidays in advance as it would make a lot of difference in the prices of tickets and accommodations.

“The way airline operates now is very different from the past. Ticket prices are determined by the time you purchase them.

“There is no more fixed price. If you buy early, it is much cheaper,” he explained.

He said although MAS fares were normally a little higher, it was worth it because MAS was a premium airline with good service and food.

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