Sunday, December 4

Sabah Air aims to be alternative airline for Sabahans


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd aims to be the alternative airline for Sabahans to destinations in the region which Malaysia Airlines (MAS) will stop flying to.

According to its chairman, Datuk Yusoff Mohd Kasim, Sabah Air is currently looking at serving regional routes such as to Korea, Japan and Australia.

Yusoff in a statement recently said that in view of the fast developing scenario for Sabah, Sabah Air is confident to serve the State profitably when all relevant landing rights in Seoul, Haneda, Osaka and Perth (to and fro Kota Kinabalu) is given to it, which MAS is currently in the process of giving up.

Sabah Air is prepared to take over these routes and is making the necessary arrangements for the same, to be activated as soon as the ‘go ahead’ is given, he said, adding that the aviation company had been working internally on a comprehensive plan to start a scheduled flight service dedicated to the State and the region over the last three months.

The plan covers regional as well as domestic routes, and is in its final stages of maturity. Once the board gives an “Authority to Proceed”, Sabah Air will be officially applying to the Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia and Ministry of Transport for relevant approvals, Yusoff added.

Sabah Air, he pointed out, has the necessary experience and ability to solve this rapidly developing problem while consolidating its plan and execute the long-term practical solution for the State.

“We are strong in our conviction that all this can be achieved while staying true to the principle of inclusive development for all Sabahans,” he said, adding that the fountainhead of the plan is a three pronged strategy to fill the gap created, especially in the tourism sector in the immediate aftermath of incumbent service providers possibly pulling out of certain sectors.

“This pullout is expected to produce a massive backlash on the State’s economy in the short to medium term. Sabah Air has the necessary solution to address the long-term issues of international connectivity for the continued benefit of the State and its economy, at the same time bring the long isolated rural areas of the State into the mainstream; logistically and economically.

“Sabah Air agrees and is working in tandem with Warisan Harta Sdn Bhd’s current thinking on this matter, to find a practical and profitable solution for the long term,” he said.

According to Yusoff, Sabah Air’s strategy, includes addressing immediate issues faced by passengers who had booked air flights but are facing potential cancellations due to service providers pulling out of these sectors. Sabah Air is already in negotiations with potential aircraft lessors to fill the gap under the company’s Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) – Charter on a Wet Lease Basis.

Wet Lease, he explained, means the company will lease aircraft along with crew, maintenance and insurance.

Sabah Air is also in discussions with relevant authorities in the State tourism sector; government and operators to get an accurate picture of the tourism sector, their travel timelines and other respective details such as local destinations so on so forth, he said, adding that the information would then be put to effective use to solve the problem at the earliest.

“To address the long term needs of the state of Sabah in terms of connectivity to the relevant foreign destinations with a more permanent arrangement, Sabah Air will be effectively moving up the value chain to form a full-fledged airline to serve East Malaysia, and eventually the BIMP-EAGA and possibly beyond.

“The main focus will be to provide an efficient logistical support for passengers and cargo; and connect this region to the rest of the world. To address the air connectivity issue for rural interiors of Sabah, with a customized and localized cost effective solution, and eventually duplicate the business model to other rural regions of East Malaysia,” he said.

Current rural air service, Yusoff pointed out, is only addressing major towns in Sabah, while the rest of the actual rural regions in the State are still without any scheduled air connectivity therefore Sabah Air has developed a comprehensive plan to address this gap and bring these regions into the main stream air connectivity pipeline.

“This phase will be implemented on the back of an ‘out of the box’ Sabah specific strategy that is already developed by the company, and will be further elucidated to the public in the coming weeks after the necessary internal processes and approvals are completed.

“At this stage we can only reveal that it is a Direct Impact Plan for the Rural Economic Transformation; create a pipeline for them to participate in the main stream economy, thereby improving their socioeconomic status and in support of the State Government’s programme to reduce the poverty incidence in the State.

“It will also provide the backbone for decentralization of the economy in general and bring about an ideal platform for implementing the concept of universal employment opportunities,” he said, adding the said plan will be duplicated to other rural regions once the Sabah phase is successfully implemented.

Sabah Air is confident on the feasibility of the plan and its ability to provide universal air connectivity for the state of Sabah, he stressed.