Increase in flight bookings to Kota Kinabalu after swab test dropped, says Malaysia Airlines

Jafry (centre) receiving a souvenir from Izham (right), while Joniston looks on.

KOTA KINABALU: Bookings for flights to the state capital have picked up following the Sabah government’s decision to do away with the Covid-19 swab test requirement from next month, says Malaysia Airlines.

Its group chief executive officer Captain Izham Ismail revealed that sales for the Kota Kinabalu route came out on top for the airline during the recently-concluded Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) fair in Kuala Lumpur.

In a statement on Tuesday (Nov 23), he also said the airline would resume the Penang-Kota Kinabalu route from Dec 1 as there was demand for it.

"Sabah continues to be an important hub for us, and the airline has also increased its weekly flight frequency to Kota Kinabalu from 68 to 75 flights from November to December.

"With the reopening of international borders expected next year, Malaysia Airlines is also prepared to fly international visitors into the country and bring them to Sabah," he added.

Izham conveyed this during a meeting with Sabah tourism delegates led by state Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Datuk Jafry Ariffin at the Malaysia Airlines Academy in Petaling Jaya, Selangor on Monday (Nov 22).

Also present were Jafry’s Assistant Minister and Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai and STB chief executive officer Noredah Othman.

Meanwhile, Jafry said the positive response to flight purchases indicated that tourism was seeing a revival and many Malaysians were eager to visit Sabah.

"Our ministry and STB are always willing to collaborate with Malaysia Airlines to re-establish both direct domestic and international flights into Sabah.

"We aim to see visitor arrivals pick up after a long hiatus, and this cannot be accomplished without the help of airline companies," he said.

The meeting with Malaysia Airlines was part of STB's continuous engagement with airline companies.

Last week Joniston led the STB team to engage with AirAsia CEO Riad Asmat on the budget carrier’s future plans for Sabah.

The STB team is also planning to meet with Malindo Air management soon.

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