KUCHING: MASwings Sdn Bhd (MASwings) should explore ‘link-up’ opportunities with the private sector in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) region.
Industry sources observed that recent annoucements that MASWings was gearing itself to venture into the BIMP-EAGA routes as early as February 2012 would be far more successful if the rural service airline paid attention to further tie-ups with third parties.
They explained that for long-term sustainability, a common package among the destinations in the regions should be established, and that required the involvement of the private sector in all fields such as travel agencies, hotel associations and so on.
“When common packages are in place, only then can joint promotion and marketing strategies be explored between the region. In order to retain viable routes, study as well as research should be done within the private sector too,” BIMP-EAGA Tourism Council Malaysia chairman Datuk Wee Hong Seng told The Borneo Post.
He further pointed out that tourism is a private sector driven initiative. “The private sector plays a vital role in contributing to the country’s economy and also helps to maintain the sustainability of the airline industry.”
“Within the BIMP-EAGA region, there is a massive population base of more than 60 million, covering an area of 1.56 million square kilometres. Considering the vast tracks of unexplored routes, it augurs well for the region to ‘get cracking’ and connect the dots,” he stressed.
Within the region, there existed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on ‘Expansion of Air Linkages’ between the governments of BIMP-EAGA, which was signed back in January 2007. It granted the Fifth Freedom Traffic Right (FFTR) airports in the EAGA countries to cater for EAGA carriers.
The FFTR arrangements allowed an air carrier of one EAGA member country to pick up traffic in the territory of the other EAGA member country and carry it to a third EAGA member country as part of the service to/from the home country of the operating carrier.
“Technically, the MoU should propel BIMP-EAGA air services into a whole new scenario – an ‘open sky’ era, however that has not yet materialised. With the support given from the region, MASwings should be able to create a niche in the hotly contested air routes competition provided it takes into account other private sector participation startegies,” said Wee.
Currently, MASwings owns 10 ATR 72-500s and four DHC-6 Twin Otters. It was required to acquire at least four jetliners in order to fulfill the requirement of being a regional airline. Speculations were rife that MASwings may be acquiring the 737-800s aircraft from one of its sister companies Firefly under MAS.
Moving forward, MASwings is set to hold its official ‘BIMP-EAGA Operations’ media briefing in Sabah today, revealing its business expansion to BIMP-EAGA which was scheduled to take effect in February next year.
While MASwings is endeavouring to capitalise on the open sky policy, other regional players are also looking at the sub-regional landscape with a magnifying glass to further make their presence felt as early players.
AirAsia co-founder and chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes recently highlighted to The Borneo Post about the company’s plans to commence a Kuching-Bangkok route, currently at the ‘waiting for approval’ stage. He was also looking at restarting the Kuching-Jakarta route.
On the international front, low-cost carrier Cebu Pacific Air of the Philippines also expressed its interest to expand its international routes in Malaysia by making Kuching its next stop after Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.
Industry sources and analysts concurred that with the growing connectivity demand within the region, the aviation landscape would be transformed into becoming a hive of activities, while more announcements should be forthcoming in the near future.