SIBU: The local authority and tourism industry players here should capitalise on the re-commencement of AirAsia Kota Kinabalu (KK)-Sibu flight, says Sarawak Budget Hotel Association (Sarawak Chapter) chairman Lau Nai Meng.
Lau said the town should make full use of this new transportation arrangement to promote its tourism industry, by creating more attractions and activities for tourists.
“Except for Indonesian workers, few foreigners come to our town. Now with the route served by the low-cost carrier, tourists are expected to finally come to here and the locals should start creating more tourism-related activities,” he said.
Lau said in order to make the sector sustainable, the airline should also offer cheaper fares.
“This arrangement is good and convenient for people to travel between the two places, and also to international destinations through Kota Kinabalu. Hopefully the fares will be low as like any other AirAsia flights,” he added.
Transport Minister Anthony Loke announced on Wednesday that AirAsia Group Bhd was to take over the KK-Sibu and KK-Bintulu routes from MASwings Sdn Bhd starting January 2019.
AirAsia had previously in August 2009 operated the KK-Sibu route but ceased operation after four months as MASwings was given exclusive rights by the government to service this rural air route.
KK-Sibu and KK-Bintulu were among over 30 Rural Air Service (RAS) routes in Sabah and Sarawak managed by MASwings and subsidised by the government as they are deemed non-commercially viable.
According to Loke, the contract with MASwings that was supposed to end in 2024 would be terminated.
This would help the government save between RM10mil and RM20mil for both routes from 2020 onwards.
Loke also announced that AirAsia would offer additional flights during the festive seasons, especially Chinese New Year, to address the problem of high fares especially for flights to Sabah and Sarawak.
These extra late-night flights come with fixed fares starting from RM99 (KL - Penang), RM149 (KL - Kuching/ Sibu/ Miri), RM199 (KL - KK) for 14 days. These fares however only apply to the extra midnight flights.
It was learnt that the carrier also planned to introduce these extra late-night fixed-fare flights for other festive seasons such as Hari Raya and Hari Gawai.
Lanang MP Alice Lau, in response to this, said she raised the matter in Parliament following complaints of exorbitant flight tickets during festive seasons.
“This issue has been burdening the people for many years and there were even reports that fares for domestic flights could increase five-fold during festive seasons.
“I have been fighting for this issue and raised it in Parliament many times since I was elected in 2013,” she said in her Facebook posting.
She said the Pakatan Harapan government had taken proactive steps to address this problem that has been a pain for the people of Sarawak and Sabah, especially those working in peninsular Malaysia.
She also hoped that more airlines would follow suit, by increasing their flight frequency especially during the festive seasons and keep their prices competitive for the interests and convenience of the people.
Extra KL-Sibu flights sold out