Sarawak to set up its own airline `as soon as possible’

Abang Johari fielding questions from the press.

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Feb 2: Frustrated with the lack of direct air connectivity to Sarawak, Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg has vowed to get Sarawak its own airline “as soon as possible”.

“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 today.

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

“We have our Hornbill Skyways, which has been operating since before I was a YB. 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.

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.

The chief minister revealed that the state had planned to acquire MASwings from Khazanah, but MAS was reluctant to sell it.

“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.

On air connectivity, Abang Johari revealed that he had also approached AirAsia owner Tan Sri Tony Fernandez to provide direct Kuching-Jakarta flights, but it failed to materialise.

Meanwhile, AirAsia’s director cum co-founder Datuk Aziz Bakar said AirAsia would provide the necessary air connectivity to ensure the Visit Sarawak Year 2019 achieve its target of 5 million visitors.

Present at the press conference were Minister of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Youths and Sports Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah and Sarawak Tourism Board chairman Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz. — DayakDaily