Airlines to mount more Sarawak-peninsula flights during festive seasons — Loke

Loke (second left) greets Abang Johari at the courtesy call. Also present were DAP Padungan assemblyman Wong King Wei (left) and Masing.

KUCHING, September 14: The Ministry of Transport will ensure that airlines in the country, including Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAS), Air Asia and Malindo, mount more flights during festive seasons to cater to Sarawakians travelling to and from the peninsula.

Transport Minister Anthony Loke said this was a new approach his ministry had been looking into following grouses from frequent Sarawakian fliers, especially those working in the peninsula.

He said his ministry hoped to implement this within a year from now, adding that there would not be any ceiling price set. He hoped the additional volume would be able to keep the prices low.

“We have been receiving complaints from Sarawakians, especially during festive seasons. I have told airline companies to add flights to and fro Sarawak during festive seasons, and at the same time determine if it is viable to set a ceiling price for the tickets.

“We have concluded the implications of setting the ceiling price for airline tickets. If a ceiling price is set and enforced, airline companies would also want floor or minimum price to be enforced as well.

“As a whole, we discovered that this would not help to reduce the ticket prices. In fact, it would increase ticket prices on regular days,” Loke explained to reporters after paying a courtesy call on Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg at the State Legislative Assembly (DUN) complex here today.

Loke speaking to reporters after his meeting with Abang Johari.

He said the airline companies could cover the cost by adding more services and flights during festive seasons between Sarawak and the peninsula, and eventually keep the ticket prices down in the long run.

He said he had discussed the new approach with Abang Johari during his visit and received a positive response, adding that his ofifce would continue to work together with the state government for the benefit of Sarawak.

On a related issue, Loke also took note of a request from frequent fliers from Sibu to have a direct flight to Kota Kinabalu as there had not been one yet.

In fact, he said, his ministry would also talk to local airlines to increase domestic flights in Sarawak as the state has a lot of growth potential, being the largest state in Malaysia.

Of course, for Sarawak air transport is important as it is the biggest state in Malaysia and there is a need for a more sustainable airport development to improve the efficiency of air transport in Sarawak.

“Sarawak has a big potential in terms of tourism and logistics, and if we can improve its air transportation, we can help Sarawak economy to be stronger,” opined Loke.

Minister of Infrastructure Development and Transportation Tan Sri Dr James Masing, who was present during the courtesy call, said among the issues Loke and Abang Johari discussed were the recontinuation of the south bound air traffic from Kuching to Australia and New Zealand, including direct flights to and from Jakarta.

“There is an increase in traffic volume due to business, students and medical tourism, especially from Indonesia.

“The Ministry of Transport promises to relook at this proposal,” he told DayakDaily.

In response to that, Loke pointed out that this had been in his ministry’s pipeline, which included increasing direct international flights to Sarawak.

He said among those were to Jakarta, China and Australia because geographically it was closer to fly directly to and from Sarawak from those countries.

“Currently, fliers to and from Sarawak travelling to these countries have to fly to Kuala Lumpur first. Geographically, it would be closer to fly directly to those countries.

“In principle, I agree with this as this could also help to develop Sarawak’s tourism and medical tourism sectors. I will discuss with our airline companies and see how they can implement this,” assured Loke. — DayakDaily