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Flights to Balikpapan from KK, Kuching soon
Published on: Sunday, December 02, 2012
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Kota Kinabalu: Upcoming flights to Balikpapan via here and Kuching are not just commercially driven but in response to the Government's aim of improving connectivity between BIMP-EAGA countries, said MASwings' Vice President (Corporate Services and Communications), Yazid Mohamed."We are the first airline that is showing determination in linking BIMP-EAGA towns," Yazid told a press conference at Tawau airport after the media's familiarisation trip to Balikpapan.

However, MASwings would only proceed with the flights when it receives approval from the authorities. "We are still waiting for it.

The launch is planned for Dec. 16, subject to approval.

"When the flights are in operation and the response picks up sooner, we will try to increase frequency. Of course this is subject to aircraft time as well as the authority's approval."

He said MASwings was not experimenting in this regard.

"We are in this in the long run. The mere existence of MASwings is to provide the Government as an airline operator for rural air services.

CSR is embedded in MASwings."

Apart from commercial venture aspect as stated, Yazid also pointed out that their upcoming flights are intended to connect people among BIMP-EAGA member countries.

"It's about bridging all these towns to enrich its people, to promote a better understanding between them, to open their minds so that all of us can acquire more knowledge about each other in order to eradicate stereotyping and misunderstanding."

Spurring activities between these places and socio economic development was also among reasons.

On why Balikpapan was chosen, Yazid said it was suitable in terms of the technical capability of the aircraft and due to no existing services currently connecting these points.

"When there is no service, but potential in terms of market demand exists, why not provide services to nurture that demand?"

"KK and Kuching are giants in this region. There's a pull factor.

KK and Kuching will pull these people in which means one direction is already solved.

"When we commence the Kuching to Balikpapan flights, people in Balikpapan can go to Pontianak via Kuching."

The pattern of flight service is from Kota Kinabalu to Balikpapan, Balikpapan to Kuching, Kuching to Balikpapan, Balikpapan to Kota Kinabalu.

The Inaugural ex Kota Kinabalu and Kuching will be on the same day.

There will be four inaugurals in one day. "This is also subject to approval from various regulators in Malaysia as well as in Indonesia."

The flying time between KK and Balikpapan is approximately one hour 55 minutes. It is almost the same for Kuching, he said.

He also highlighted among Balikpapan's wealth as Oil and Gas as well as coal. "The economy's strength is there."

Although demand for those going out of Balikpapan is just in theory, Yazid pointed out that due to the quite sizeable market of 700,000 in Balikpapan, he is quite confident that there will be a demand for KK and Kuching out of Balikpapan.

Noting there are no direct flights from these points, he said that if there was an existing service that stopped, they could question that perhaps the demand was not there.

He said KK and Kuching have their own pull factors.

The demand is there and will only grow overtime, he said.

According to travel agents, among reasons people in Balikpapan go out are for rest and recreation, holiday, shopping and medical purposes.

According to him, rigorous beforehand study on the pull factors of Balikpapan, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching was conducted and it was found that there was demand for these destinations.

"We have been to Tarakan, Bandar Seri Begawan and Pontianak."

He recalled the success with Pontianak and Tarakan flights which started only three times a week then went to daily almost immediately.

Due to competition, Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei takes a bit of time to pick up especially because Royal Brunei Airlines also flies there.

"Naturally if there is an existing service, it takes a bit more effort and time for it to be viable for us."

Flights to Puerto Princessa in Philippines are also in the pipeline next year, according to Yazid.


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