DCM: Setting up state-owned airline last resort, if talks fail

Tan Sri Dr James Masing

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KUCHING, Nov 18: The state government considers the option of setting up its own airline as the last resort to resolve the long standing issue of air connectivity.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing said the state government will initiate talks first with AirAsia and MASwings to ensure that flight connectivity between the major cities and towns in Sarawak and Sabah would not be affected next year.

Should the talks fail or the two airlines concerned are not committed to serving Sarawak, then the state will has no choice but to set up its own airline.

“We have a big land mass and air connectivity is a major choice for many of our people, especially the businessmen and government officers.

MASwings’ announcement came as a shock to us, as it will stop a few routes which are popular. Even if it is true that these routes are profitable ones as the passenger loads are high, we need more time to source for alternatives to service these routes which have been taken up by MASwings.

“During the talks, if both AirAsia and MASwings are reluctant to commit, then we are left with no choice but start to look into the possibility of having our own airline,” Masing who is Infrastructure Development and Transportation Minister told the press.

He said as the state government had been busy with the State Legislative Assembly sitting for the past 10 days, the state had no time yet to meet up with all the air connectivity stakeholders including AirAsia and MASwings.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai recently announced in Parlimament that MASwings will cease operations for six routes in Sarawak and Sabah by next year to make way for commercial airlines.

The routes are Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu-Tawau, Kota Kinabalu-Miri, Kuching-Miri, Kuching-Kota Kinabalu, and Kuching-Sibu.

The decision was made after a study was done on rural air services (RAS) by the Malaysian Aviation Commision (Mavcom).

The study found that the six existing routes had a high load factor of up to 86 per cent, making it more profitable for commercial airlines.

The six routes will be opened to commercial airlines.

MASwings has been operating RAS in East Malaysia almost exclusively with RM160 million in annual subsidies provided by the government to cover operations and plane costs, reported the Star. — DayakDaily