Back-up plan needed for cutting flight routes

  • Metro News
  • Thursday, 16 Nov 2017

MASwings is ceasing operations for six routes in Sabah and Sarawak by next year. — filepic

KOTA KINABALU: The decision to cease MASwings’ operations for six routes in Sabah and Sarawak might negatively affect domestic travels.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Raymond Tan Shu Kiah said the ceasing of operations for these routes — Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu-Tawau, Kota Kinabalu-Miri, Kuching-Miri, Kuching-Kota Kinabalu and Kuching-Sibu — would make it difficult for those travelling to and from these places.

However, he said he was unsure if there were any back-up plan for those who needed to travel to these areas often.

“I need to get more details on this,” he said, adding that he was unaware if there had been any discussion with the Tourism Ministry before the decision was made.

He also said Sarawak’s response to this matter was it may bring about other commercial flights.

He said it was too early to say what the impact could be, especially for domestic travel in these two states.

Last week, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said in his winding-up speech for Budget 2018 debates that MASwings will cease operations for six routes in Sabah and Sarawak next year to make way for commercial airlines.

He said this was decided after a study by the Malaysian Aviation Commission was done on rural air services (RAS).

It found that the six existing routes, jointly operated by MASwings with commercial airlines such as Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia, had a high load factor of up to 86%, making it more profitable for commercial airlines.

Liow said the government was ready to consider applications by commercial airlines to operate RAS, subject to conditions.

However, he said they cannot subsidise MASwings anymore if they open up RAS to commercial airlines.

AirAsia had applied to conduct rural air services in Sabah and Sarawak, but Liow said the routes applied for, had little potential as viable commercial routes, because of a low-load factor, meaning there were fewer passengers.

For the time being, MASwings operates rural air services almost exclusively, with RM160mil annual subsidies to cover operational and aircraft costs.

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