Tuesday, June 25

Tie-up offers growth opportunities for Hornbill

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KUCHING: Hornbill Skyways sees great potential in helicopter services in Sarawak following the Malaysia Airline-AirAsia collaboration.

Although AirAsia and MAS’ Firefly flights are affordable there is already public anxiety as to whether they (people) are still going to enjoy the cheap fare.

“Although Hornbill Skyways may find that the plan is capital and labour-intensive, they must also see it as a business venture worth pursuing and a great social obligation to Sarawakians. We can’t deny the fact that the majority of the people still want affordable air fares,” Dato Ahmad Ibrahim, an entrepreneur said when met recently.

He proposed that Hornbill Skyways look into the suggestion because “if realised it will become a pride for Sarawakians”.

“It would be great if Sarawakians take up this venture because we can then have our own airline. Besides, it will create more jobs.”

Ahmad, however, said that to realise this dream, Hornbill Skyways would have to expand, diversify into airline service
provider and increase its fleet and manpower from time to time to be more effective.

He acknowledged that such venture and running an airline company would need massive investment and capital.

Sarawak Tourism Board CEO Datuk Rashid Khan meanwhile believed that MAS’ collaboration with AirAsia would not adversely affect the state’s tourism sector.

“The airline would continue to support the state tourism industry,” he said, adding that a new
airline would emerge following the MAS-AirAsia collaboration.

On talks that Firefly was downsizing and cancelling flights and routes in the wake of the collaboration, Rashid said he would talk in detail about the implication of cancelled routes in the next few days.

On the suggestion that Hornbill Skyways should venture into airline business, he said the company would need huge capital to see it through.

Social activist Datuk Anthony Nait said it would take great political will to see the helicopter service provider take the challenge.

“Besides, huge capital is needed to run an airline company. But if Hornbill Skyways really wants it and successfully realises the plan, then we can say it is our pride,” he said.

State Democratic Action Party (DAP) treasurer Violet Yong who is also Pending assemblywoman said there must be some good reasons for routes to be cancelled.

On the cancellation of Firefly’s Kuching-Johor route (now) and the Kuching-Kuala Lumpur on Oct 31, Yong said if the routes were not attractive enough they were bound to be cancelled.

Since airline business and tourism sector are usually interlinked, miscommunication between MAS and the state tourism players could be a factor.

“So much effort and initiatives have been made to ensure the development of our tourism industry. The cancellations of routes will make it worse,” she said.

State Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice-president See Chee How meanwhile said the state government must make its stand
on the cancellation issue because if left unchecked it would seriously affect the tourism industry. The cancellation of routes
would also result in heavy financial burden to the travellers if MAS or AirAsia decided to charge higher fares.

He said the state government should intervene and raise objection on the cancellation of Firefly’s Kuching-Kuala Lumpur route (starting Oct 31) and the Kuching-Johor route.

“MAS owes Malaysians an explanation, especially on the financial implication, for the scrapping of these routes,” he said.

“If the fare is expensive, national integration efforts between the peninsula and East Malaysia will be hampered,” he said.

He claimed that since Sarawak had a 10 per cent stake in MAS, the state government should seek an explanation from MAS, why the route cancellation was being done now.

“It is also about time Sabah and Sarawak set up its own airline company,” he added.