BEBC Sabah backs call to continue Maswings routes
Published on: Thursday, November 08, 2018

Kota Kinabalu: BIMP-EAGA Business Council (BEBC) Sabah has urged the Transport Ministry and the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) to reconsider the decision to stop the Kota Kinabalu (KK)-Tawau and KK-Sandakan flights by MASwings starting from Jan 1, next year. Its Chairman Carl Moosom said the two routes are very important for tourists to get to islands such as in Semporna.

"For example, the Tun Sakaran Marine Park which is popularly dubbed as the 'Maldives of Asia'. The Park itself consists of eight islands and two reefs.

"If the authorities were to cease the operations of the two routes, BEBC Sabah is worried that the State will suffer a negative impact in economy and tourism, especially in the East Coast," he said.

Expressing support for Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Christina Liew who had requested the authorities to maintain the routes for another year, Moosom said it is well acknowledged that MASwings's contribution has been great throughout these years to connect the west and east coasts of Sabah.

"However, MASwings lacks competition because of its rigid pricing," he added.

Moosom said former Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai had, in November 2017, said that ceasing the operations of six MASwings routes was decided after a study by Mavcom on Rural Air Services (RAS).

Liow said by 2018 MASwings would stop operating six routes, including the KK-Sandakan and KK-Tawau flights, because MASwings could not sustain its operations and has to open up the routes to commercial flights.

According to the Mavcom study, he said, the six routes jointly operated by MASwings and commercial airlines like Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia had a high load factor of up to 86 per cent.

"This means there were more passengers flying MAS and AirAsia which made it more profitable for the commercial airlines.

"Flying (from KK) to Sandakan and Tawau by MASwings would cost as much as RM199-RM230 one way whereas by AirAsia it would only cost about half of that.

"But although AirAsia may be cheaper, it doesn't mean that its other services are better," said Moosom.

He added that MASwings, a subsidised airline, should be offering a better package.

"Just when the tempo of tourism growth is gaining momentum, they (MASwings) have decided to stop operating the routes," Christina, who is also State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, was quoted as saying in her statement.

"Our local and international business and VFR (visiting friends and relatives) travellers depend on MASwings to fly them to smaller towns in Sabah," she said.

"Members of BEBC Sabah are frequent business travellers, hence we like to have options for our business travelling," said Moosom.

"We would like to express our support for Christina's statement to request the authorities to maintain the current operations for another year, so that the Public Service Obligations (PSO) Agreement can be reviewed and re-negotiated accordingly." - Lorena Binisol

Photo Source: Bernama


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