Tuesday, August 4

Firefly urged to make Sibu its hub for East Malaysia

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SIBU: Firefly — a low cost carrier has been urged to consider making Sibu the hub for East Malaysia, following its expansion plans into Sarawak market.

This was because the central region was a rapidly growing market for domestic travel, reasoned the managing director of Equitorial Tours and Travel Sdn Bhd, Robert Tan.

While he hailed the airline’s expansion to Sarawak as timely, he opined that Kuching market had become congested with five airlines fighting for the market share and lately, Jetstar had decided to pull out.

“On the contrary, there are more than 10,000 locals working in Singapore and Johor Baharu. And moreover, there are many students studying in public and private institutions of higher learning in the Peninsular,” Tan told The Borneo Post yesterday when asked on the impact of Firefly’s entry to Sarawak on the airlines industry.

He thus argued that this would provide the necessary load to ensure that the airlines remain profitable, reiterating that Sibu was a mouth-watering market.

Backing his claim to urge the low fare airline to give Sibu the priority, he said both the current premium and low cost airlines still serviced the Sibu-Kuala Lumpur route and “hence, this goes without reasonable doubt that Sibu or the central region has the passenger load.”

The nation capital was the gateway to domestic and international destinations and it was imperative that, more airlines serviced this route.

As such, Firefly, he said, should take up the initiative since this would greatly benefit the people in the central region.

He reckoned that unlike in the Peninsular with better road connectivity, people in Sarawak depended heavily on air travel between towns as it was more convenient and time saving.

Citing an example, he said it took about six hours to reach Kuching from Sibu despite a distance of about 300km.

As such, people here still opt to travel by air rather than by roads to save time.

Tan figured that with Firefly spreading its wings to Sibu, it would give other airlines a run for their money.

“Passengers would stand to benefit from more competitive airfares and better flights options.”

He reasoned that since Sibu did not have a direct flight to Singapore and missing out on the Kuching-Seoul and Kuching-Tokyo routes, it was timely for the bustling town to enjoy better air connectivity.

He also suggested perhaps Firefly could consider flying Sibu-Johore route to put pressure on the existing low cost carrier.

Still on the same subject, he described Firefly’s spreading its wings to Sarawak as a strategic move since the state formed the bulk of the domestic travel market.

“Here, we can only travel by air to the Peninsular and again, this speaks volume about the passenger load,” he noted.