MAS’ restructuring exercise to include new routes serves Sarawak’s interest well — Minister
KUCHING: The state government has withdrawn plans to have equity interest in MASwings as Malaysia Airlines (MAS)’s final restructuring exercise has resulted in MASwings serving regional routes without any investment from Sarawak and Sabah.
Minister of Tourism Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said investing in MASwings, a wholly-owned unit of MAS, would no longer bring any additional benefit to the state considering that the restructuring had met the state’s initial objective of keeping routes in the region coming into East Malaysia.
Speaking to reporters after launching the MASwings Kuching-Balikpapan route here yesterday, he said the federal government had ensured that the interests of Sarawak and Sabah would take centre stage in its decision to expand MAS’ routes, especially within the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines – East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
“If there is a direct route from Kuching to another destination, they cannot withdraw flights as they wish. They must consult both Sabah and Sarawak,”
Abang Johari added that MASwings would be procuring new aircraft once the load factor became economical.
“That is a possibility in the long term, if the demand is there.”
On another matter, Abang Johari, who is also Minister of Housing, said the state was on its way to becoming a medical tourism destination, with four million people seeking treatment in private hospitals here last year.
He labelled this trend as “a good sign of things to come”.
“Cost wise, we are relatively cheaper compared to neighbouring countries like Singapore. We hope to make Kuching the destination for medical tourism.”
He suggested that private hospitals offer enticing packages where, for instance, their patients would come for treatment before retreating to a local resort for further therapy and recovery.
“We are very fortunate we have clean air. We are cleaning up the water. This environment is good for health care and we want to put the necessary infrastructure in place,” he said, adding that Kuching has a competitive edge over others from this perspective.
“I urge all industry players to be creative in creating new packages.”
Meanwhile, MASwings chief executive officer Datuk Captain Mohd Nawawi Awang, who was also present, said they would be bringing in six new Twin Otters to meet growing demand in the state.
“We will get one of the aircraft by the end of this year, with the rest coming in 2014.”
Also present at the function were BIMP-EAGA Clusters Sarawak Chapter chairman Datu Ik Pahon, Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Dato Rashid Khan and Indonesian Republic Consul General Bapa Djoko Harjanto.
The new route will commence on Feb 1, but tickets are now on sale at an attractive introductory rate of as low as RM312 for a return flight.
Customers can enjoy this special fare by booking online at www.maswings.com.my. They can also contact MASwings or Malaysia Airlines Ticketing Offices, call centres, or travel agents.
The low fares will be available for booking from now till Feb 14. The travelling period is from Feb 1 to April 30.
MASwings is scheduled to fly to Balikpapan every Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays from Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.