Abang Jo mulls setting up boutique airline to propel domestic economic growth

Abang Johari addressing a press conference in Spaoh today (Nov 30, 2021).

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, Nov 30: The Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) government is looking to set up a boutique airline under Hornbill Skyways to expand Sarawak’s transportation sector which it sees as an important engine of growth for the State’s economy especially in smaller towns.

Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg, in announcing this plan today, vowed to make the boutique airline a reality if GPS is given a new and strong mandate in the coming 12th Sarawak Election on Dec 18.

The idea, he pointed out, is to provide travellers with arrival-to-destination convenience for short-haul and economy flights without resorting to the frills of transiting, long waiting times and various other inconveniences.

He said that Hornbill Skyways, which currently provides charter services, can set up a commercial wing and lease aircrafts to focus on and connect to strategic hubs like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta, Bangkok and even to Hong Kong.

“These are not empty promises as I have already calculated the cost and the (prospective) model (of operation) that will not burden the State (coffer).

“I feel we need our own small airline, perhaps with aircraft capacity between 100 to 120 passengers so that we don’t have to depend on others. It does not have to be a big operation.

“Tourists prefer point-to-point travel without transiting. Like tourists from Hong Kong who want to come to Sarawak and need to transit through KL, they need to fill in two forms which is too troublesome,” he told a press conference after performing the groundbreaking ceremony for Bebuling Airport at a community hall in Spaoh, Betong today.

When questioned about the sustainability of the boutique airport, Abang Johari added that Sarawak can build up demand without burdening the operation by leasing aircrafts according to future demand.

With new airports being built in Bebuling in Spaoh, Bukit Mabong in Kapit, as well as Lawas, he said these transport infrastructure will improve mobility and connectivity as well as increase Sarawak’s economic productivity and growth.

“This will improve air cargo transportation for the agriculture and food production industries as well as the tourism sector which will all benefit our economy and provide more opportunities for the local community.

“This is a multi-pronged strategy. While these projects will require substantial funding, God gave me the brain and guided me to find (or engineer) the money which has been done through imposition of State Sales Tax (SST for petroleum products) and other strategies,” he added.

Within these past three years, Abang Johari emphasised, the government had increased the State revenue by an additional RM7 billion which has and will continue to be ploughed back to bring development to Sarawak and lift up the community.

“With more revenue coming in, it will be returned to the people. We will continue our efforts with a positive and genuine intention for the betterment of the people,” he vowed.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas, Assistant Minister of Transport Datuk Dr Jerip Susil, Betong MP Datuk Robert Chuat Lawson as well as incumbents Dato Gerald Rentap Jabu (Layar), Razaili Gapor (Beting Maro) and Mohd Razi Sitam (Saribas). — DayakDaily