Airline business tough, Sarawak will tread carefully — Abdul Karim

Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Feb 3: Sarawak will pursue its dream of starting its own airline with utmost care because the airline business is a tough industry.

Among the important things that needed to be looked into are organisational structure, passenger safety issues and aviation requirements.

However, the overall idea is for the state’s own airline to fly internally within the state and to mount direct flights to cities considered as strategic within the region, said Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

“How the organisational structure of the airline will be like … we wait and see.

“As what has been mentioned by CM (Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg), Sarawak is planning to have its own airline to cater for more flights internally within the state and direct flights with cities within the region.

“However, the airline business is not an easy business, and it needs careful planning. Safety of passengers is of utmost importance and compliance with strict international aviation requirements need to be adhered to.

“Once all these have been studied, then Sarawak will launch its Sarawak Airline,” Abdul Karim told DayakDaily today.

He was commenting on Abang Johari’s announcement yesterday that Sarawak planned to start its own airline “as soon as possible” as the state was frustrated with the lack of direct air connectivity to the state.

“Yes, we are seriously going into the airline (business). We want to have it (own airline) as soon as possible as that is my expectation. But there are hurdles, so we have to go through the hurdles,” Abang Johari told a press conference at the Visit Sarawak Campaign Aircraft Livery launch at Kuching International Airport yesterday.

He said the proposed airline would start small to link Kuching to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta.

Thus far, it is unclear whether the state government intends to turn Hornbill Skyways into a regional airline, revisit the former path by persuading MAS to sell MASwings or start the airline from scratch.

But Abang Johari did say: “We have our Hornbill Skyways, which has been operating since before I was a YB (elected representative). So, Hornbill Skyways must be expanded, and they must have commercial operations, where it can work with its peers and see what’s the best options,” he said.

He also did mention that the state had planned to acquire MasWings from Khazanah, but MAS was reluctant to sell it. However, this option may still be on the table.

“We had proposed to take over MasWings from Khanazah and turn it into a regional airline, but MAS was having trouble at that time, and they also wanted to turn MAS into a regional airline. So, our airline could be a competitor to them. I pun salah jua. I cakap regional airline. But anyway, we are looking at it,” he stressed.

Abang Johari emphasised that his administration was serious in setting up an airline to meet the growing demand of tourists who preferred direct flights rather than connecting flights.

“They prefer point-to-point flights, and I am frustrated because we don’t have it,” he said. — DayakDaily