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Borneo airline: Sarawak says why not if it’s good
Published on: Thursday, August 31, 2023
By: Malay Mail, FMT
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Borneo airline: Sarawak says why not if it’s good
Sarawak Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the state government will study any suggestions to join forces with Sabah for a Borneo airline if it is for the good of the two states. — Picture by Azneal Ishak
KUCHING: Sarawak will study any suggestions to join forces with Sabah for a Borneo airline if it is for the good of the two states, said State Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

“Well, if there is a request or attempt to do something like this and it is good for the two states, why not?” he said during a press conference after launching the Sarawak-Malaysia My Second Home (S-MM2H) management online application system, here, Wednesday.

“Because, at the end of the day, what is important is the consumers, and that the people of Sarawak and Sabah are able to benefit from this airline,” he said.

Karim was asked to respond to suggestions that Sarawak and Sabah should form a Borneo airline instead of each state setting up its own separate airline.

On Sabah’s plan to have its own airline, as announced by Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd (SAASB) Chairman Kenny Chua, Karim said he is happy for Sabah.

“The more the merrier because the airline will definitely be looking into Sarawak as one of the destinations,” he said, adding that more airlines flying to Sarawak meant healthy competition among carriers. 

“When there is competition, it will be good for the consumers. That is the main reason why Sarawak wants to have its own airline,” he said.

On Sunday (Aug 27), Daily Express quoted Chua as saying that Sabah could expect to have its own airline up and running by next year if everything goes according to plan.

He said the lease for three aircraft — not limited to Airbus or Boeing — would be signed before the end of the year.

According to Chua, Sabah might even launch earlier than Sarawak, in reference to the latter’s current negotiations to acquire MasWings from Malaysia Aviation Group.

Karim stressed that Sarawak’s move to set up its own airline is due to the demand for seats from Sarawakians residing and working in peninsular Malaysia who wish to return home for Hari Raya, Gawai Dayak and Chinese New Year.

He said this had led to higher airfares being imposed by the airline companies.

“When we have our own airline, we will set the ceiling, and once you set the ceiling, the others will also have to follow suit,” he said, stressing that Sarawak is not looking for profit from its airline.

Meanwhile, a transport consultant suggested that Sabah and Sarawak join forces to form an airline company instead of setting up their own.

Rosli Khan said instead of launching their own airlines, the two Borneo states should explore a collaboration with existing low-cost airlines to suit their respective social, economic and tourism needs.

He said low-cost airlines would support the idea, adding that it was a safer way for the two states to enter the airline business rather than starting from scratch.

“Only a number of popular routes with high demand are worth the investment, while many other routes are actually loss-making. 

“Those minor routes under MASwings have been heavily subsidised by Putrajaya to keep the services afloat,” he said.

Last month, the Sarawak Government inked a memorandum of understanding with Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG), the parent company of MASwings Sdn Bhd, to discuss the airline’s acquisition.

Warisan Secretary-General Loretto Padua Jr said while he supports the idea of Sabah having its own airline, it was important for the State Government not to rush into the venture.

Pointing out that some Sabahans still lack basic amenities, he said the State Government should conduct detailed research to determine the proposed airline’s feasibility.

“As of now, what Sabahans need are better electricity and water supply as well as better road infrastructure,” he told FMT.

“The irony is that even the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) is affected by water supply disruptions.”

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