Premier: MASwings to focus on stabilising airfares and connectivity, not eyeing high profits

Abang Johari (sixth left) signing a plaque while (from left) Lee, Dr Rundi, Fatimah, Dr Sim, Yee, Uggah, Jabu and Abdul Karim (right) look on at Sheraton Kuching Hotel's grand opening on Feb 18, 2024. Photo credit: Sarawak Public Communications Unit (Ukas)

By Chris Lidom & Shikin Louis

KUCHING, Feb 19: Sarawak will use regional airline MASwings to focus on stabilising airfares and building connectivity instead of looking at yielding high profits.

In stating this, Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg described the State’s acquisition of the airline as building a bridge where its primary objective is to facilitate mobility for the people and not run as a so-called normal business model where investors would calculate the return on investment (ROI).

“As far as Sarawak is concerned, because we are on an island, you need this airline as the bridge.

“People cannot swim to Sarawak because we are surrounded by the sea so this airline will bring tourists to Sarawak.

“What is important is the trickle-down effect or spin-offs that will be measured as the success of this airline, particularly on our gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

“The more tourists come in, the more money they will spend to eat and use the services that Sarawak offer. This is the important trickle-down or spin-off effect in our effort to bring in the airline so MASwings’ profitability is not our ultimate objective,” he said when speaking at the grand opening of Sheraton Kuching Hotel here last night.

Abang Johari also said the upcoming business model for MASwings is inspired by United Arab Emirates’s (UAE) success with Emirates Airline which offers very low fares compared to other airlines.

Despite the low fares, many people spend their money in Dubai which then led to it becoming a prominent connectivity hub within the Middle East.

At the same time, Abang Johari said the MASwings acquisition will also help to stabilise airfares especially when Sarawakians always had to deal with imposition of high airfares during festive seasons.

“For an example, now we are having Chinese New Year (CNY), so they (other airlines) are increasing their flight rates. Next month when we celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, the fares will surely go up. During Gawai Dayak, the fares will also go up. We are at the mercy of these people,” he said.

The Premier said that with Sarawak having its own airline, they would be able to offer lower airfares and thus, also motivate other airlines not to increase their fares.

“If not, the fares to Kuala Lumpur could rise up to over RM1,000, then we might as well go to Hong Kong instead,” he added.

Also present were Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas; Deputy Premier Datuk Amar Dr Sim Kui Hian; Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts (MTCP) Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah; Minister of Food Industry, Commodity and Regional Development (M-FICORD) Dato Sri Dr Stephen Rundi Utom; Minister of Women, Childhood and Community Wellbeing Development (KPWK) Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah; Minister of Transport Sarawak (MOTS) Dato Sri Lee Kim Shin; Sarawak Secretary Datuk Amar Mohamad Abu Bakar Marzuki; Sheraton Kuching Hotel owner Tan Sri Yee Ming Seng; former Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Alfred Jabu Numpang; and Sheraton Kuching Hotel general manager George van Oosten. — DayakDaily