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Long Pasia airport to reopen
Published on: Wednesday, January 16, 2019

KOTA KINABALU: The Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) and regional airline MASWings aim to serve more rural air passengers by reopening the Long Pasia airport and ceasing operations of non-rural flights in the State under a new agreement signed early this year. 

 Mavcom Chief Operating Officer Azmir Zain declined to say when the rural airport will reopen but said two urban-to-urban routes would stop operating under the new agreement. 

 “We will announce duly when the Long Pasia airport will reopen,” he told a media briefing, Tuesday. 

 “But we will discontinue MASWings’ Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu-Tawau routes, which were in the previous agreement, as these no longer fulfill the definition of ‘public service obligation’ under the new agreement.” 

 The Ministry of Transport earlier this month announced that it had inked an agreement with MASWings to operate 40 rural air services (RAS) in Sabah and Sarawak for the 2019-2024 period, down from 49 mostly urban-to-urban routes in the former agreement. 

 In the announcement, six RAS routes (Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu-Tawau, Kota Kinabalu-Miri, Kuching-Miri, Kuching-Bintulu and Kuching-Sibu) were reclassified as fully commercial routes effective Jan 1, 2019 and are no longer  served by MASWings. 

However, these routes are amply served by MAS and AirAsia. “Mavcom is of the view that an improved RAS programme will benefit passengers in Sabah and Sarawak and the sector as a whole,” said Azmir. 

 “The recent announcement by the government of the possibility of opening additional RAS routes - Long Pasia in Sabah as well as Kapit, Bukit Mabong, Belaga and Long Silat in Sarawak - pending infrastructure readiness, reflects the true spirit of RAS. 

 “RAS is a not-for-profit air service carried out in the interior of East Malaysia where air transport is an essential transportation mode to connect people on rural areas with other parts of the country.”

 According to Jan-Oct 2018 statistics for Sabah provided at Azmir’s briefing, only 42pc of the 253,051 total passengers were flying the urban-rural routes. 

 In both Sabah and Sarawak, out of over one million passengers served by MASWings in the same period, only 2pc were served on rural-rural routes, 28pc urban-rural routes and 70pc urban-urban routes. 

“In line with Mavcom’s mandate, the commission will continue to ensure that RAS is provided to passengers in the most effective and efficient manner as well as to ensure the optimal use of government subsidies for the continued air intra-connectivity of Sabah and Sarawak,” said Azmir. 

 “To ensure passenger welfare is prioritised, the monitoring system for RAS has been enhanced and will involve passenger feedback, which will be part of the performance-based remuneration system to incentivise good levels of service, as opposed to the remuneration system based on financial losses only under the former RAS agreement.”

 On another matter, Azmir said the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) was the second most-trafficked airport after its Kuala Lumpur counterpart, having served 10.9 million passengers in 2017. 

 A quarter of this number involved international passengers, said Azmir.

 



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