AirAsia out of Sibu-KK route effect October 25, 2009

Deputy minister assures without budget airline, passengers can still expect attractive discounts

AirAsia will stop flying the Sibu-Kota Kinabalu-Sibu route with effect from Oct 25, Deputy Minister of Transport Datuk Robert Lau announced yesterday.

Speaking at a dialogue session, Lau referred to an agreement between his ministry and MASwings which excluded the Sibu-KK-Sibu route from the seven shared routes of MAS, MASwings and AirAsia.

Despite cutting the budget airline out, he said his ministry and MAS had worked out discounts for passengers of this route.

“Passengers can now get discounts of up to 70 per cent if they book the tickets online. The cheapest airfare per route can cost only RM77 while passengers still enjoy full in-flight services,” Lau said.

Environment and Public Health Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, Sarawak United Chinese Association president Datuk Lau Cheng Kiong and representatives of Sibu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry and various Chinese associations and travel agents were present at the dialogue.

Also present were Sibu Municipal Council chairman Datuk Tiong Thai King and Nangka assemblyman Datuk Awang Bemee.

Lau said although the contract between his ministry and MASwings only agreed on providing two direct flights daily, MASwings had increased the flight frequency to four daily.

“MASwings is at the same time looking into the possibility of having the fifth direct flight in the late evening from Kota Kinabalu,” he said, adding that there were many tourists from China, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea entering Kota Kinabalu.

He said the fifth later evening flight could help connect these passengers to Sibu to help boost tourism here.

Lau said his ministry, under the request of the Ministry of Finance, was conducting a study on reviewing the Rural Air Services (RAS) contract in Sabah and Sarawak to possibly redefine the RAS routes.

He also touched on air connectivity between Sibu and Limbang, adding that in the past, passengers from Sibu would have to wait in Miri for a considerable time before they could fly to Limbang.

“With the new arrangement, passengers can now stay in the plane at Miri Airport while waiting for the same aircraft to take off for Limbang in 25 minutes. This has helped cut the travel time.”

He said the same applied to passengers travelling from Limbang to Sibu via Miri.

More good news came from the Transport Ministry when Lau said arrangements with MAS had added two more daily flights between Sibu and Kuala Lumpur beginning Oct 25.

He said the early additional flight would fly from Sibu at 7am, arriving at the national capital at 8.50pm.

“The other additional flight, non-stop, will fly from KL at 7.30pm and arrive Sibu at 9.25pm. These additional flights will enable businessmen to make day trips instead of having to stay overnight in the national capital,” he said.

Another good piece of news from Lau’s ministry is the route of Sibu and Kuching. According to him, MASwings has added an early flight from Kuching to Sibu, flying out at 6.10am and arriving Sibu at 6.55am.

“The same aircraft will carry passengers from Sibu to Kuching, departing at 7.25am and arriving at 8.20am. This introduction will also enable businessmen and government officials to make day trips between the two places,” he said.

Lau said he was also working with MAS and MASwings on the possibility of operating international flights from Sarawak into BIMP-EAGA region (destinations in Indonesian Kalimantan and South Philippines) next year.

He said this request had come from the Minister of Tourism and Urban Development Datuk Michael Manyin, to help with the development of tourism in the region.

“During a recent cabinet meeting on tourism chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Mohd Yassin, I brought this up. The deputy prime minister has instructed MAS and MASwings to study the viability of this proposal,” Lau said.

Lau hoped this would be realised soon as it would be a big boost to the tourism industry and the business community.

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