KUCHING: Sarawak has a new flight connection to a regional destination with the introduction of Indonesian airline Wings Air’s Pontianak-Kuching route.
The inaugural flight, carrying a full load of 72 passengers on an ATR 72-600 aircraft, landed at Kuching International Airport at noon.
The aircraft was greeted with a water salute while passengers received a traditional welcome.
Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the new flight would help to meet Sarawak’s expectations of increasing the number of tourist arrivals this year, along with recent new routes.
“In the past month we’ve seen new flights coming to Sarawak. On Dec 27, we had the first flight from Shenzhen to Kuching as well as Singapore to Bintulu.
“We will continue to improve connectivity in efforts to develop the tourism industry in Sarawak,” he said after presenting bead necklaces to Wings Air passengers.
Abdul Karim also said the new Pontianak-Kuching flight would boost tourism and economic opportunities between Sarawak and West Kalimantan.
“Many Indonesians come here for health tourism, so we hope to increase the number of visitors besides promoting our tourist attractions.
“At the same time, Pontianak is an important gateway to Indonesia. With this new flight, visitors from Sarawak can travel to other cities in Indonesia via Pontianak,” he said.
Indonesian consul-general in Kuching Drs Jahar Gultom said the new flight increased the connectivity between Pontianak and Kuching, giving more access to Sarawakians and Indonesians to visit each other.
“Xpress Air and AirAsia are already serving this route, showing that airlines see a strong relationship between Sarawak and Indonesia,” he said.
Noting that both Sarawak and West Kalimantan recorded an increase in tourist arrivals from 2015 to 2016, he hoped the new flight would boost tourism cooperation between the countries.
Wings Air flight operations director Capt Redi Irawan said Kuching was the airline’s first international destination.
“This is a special occasion for us. Kuching is our 107th destination, after 106 domestic destinations in Indonesia.
“After this, we plan to fly from Pontianak to Miri,” he said.
Wings Air is a low-cost airline under Lion Air Group.
There are flights twice a day from each destination.
Flights depart Pontianak at 9.45am and 6pm while the planes leave Kuching at 7am and 11.55am.