KUCHING: Discussions are under way between the state government and Malaysia Airlines (MAS) for its subsidiary MASwings to become autonomous to be able to expand its flight routes.
Housing and Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said since MAS was also restruc- turing itself, he said the state government proposed the nation’s longest serving airline to maintain the same structure for Sarawak and Sabah, but to have autonomous management.
“This is so that we can decide on the route. It would be a consultative sort of structure with autonomy,” he told reporters after the morning State Legislative Assembly (DUN) session yesterday.
Johari also proposed that since MASwings was going to upgrade its current fleet of Twin Otter aircraft, he also suggested the airline to include amphibious aircraft to the new fleet.
“For example if they are flying to Sri Aman, they can also land in Batang Lupar. Also to promote Fort Alice as a tourist attraction there, a special jetty could be built to accommodate these amphibious planes,” he said.
Johari also revealed that by the year 2015, Asean countries would have an open sky where all airlines within Asean would be able to fly and land at any point within Asean.
“On top of that Asean is also embarking on Asean+3, which inclu- des China, Japan and Korea. We will try to impress the Asean committee with MAS and MASwings by having this point-to-point routes,” he said.
Earlier during the DUN ques- tion-and-answer session, Pantai Damai assemblyman Dr Abdul Rahman Junaidi was asking what steps were being taken by the government to improve air connectivity to boost the tourism industry in the state.
Assistant Tourism Minister Datuk Talib Zulpilip said MAS had informed the ministry that it would add more flights into the state in the coming six months.
For MASwings, he said, the airline was still waiting for approval from the Transport Ministry to start flying to Balikpapan, Indonesia.
“MASwings will also have flights from Kuching to Mulu and Brunei sometime January next year. Our ministry is also trying to draw in chartered flights from China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea into the state.
“This is also a collaboration between the Sarawak Tourism Board, Sarawak Tourism Federation and Tourism Promotion Board,” he said.
Talib also elaborated on fully utilising the extended Sibu Airport, responding to Bukit Assek assemblyman Wong Ho Leng’s (DAP) questions.
Talib said the extension of Sibu Airport was meant to cater for passengers into the Central Region, in anticipation of the rapid development in Sibu and its hinterland and the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) area of Tanjung Manis and Mukah.
“The ministry is also discussing with MAS and other airlines to increase flight frequency into Sibu. Airline is a business entity and the final decision whether airlines will fly into Sibu depends on the load factor. As far as the ministry is concerned, we will continue to promote Sibu and the Central Region as a tourism destination.
“Related tourism infrastructure and services in the Central Region will also be planned and has been implemented. The private sector also needs to play an active role in helping the state to develop the Industry,” he said.
Wong also asked what the state revenue was from the tourism industry for Sibu from 2005 till now.
“The estimated revenue from the tourism industry for Sibu from 2005 till 2011 is RM282,879,846.30,” replied Talib.