KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Sabah Chapter regrets to note the network rationalization program of Malaysia Airlines group which will see the impending pullout of Firefly routes to Sabah by the end of this year.
The chapter’s chairman, KL Tan in a statement yesterday, said that pulling out from Sabah appeared to be a commercial decision without taking public interest into consideration.
He added that the demise of Firefly operations to Sabah is expected to have an adverse repercussion on tourist arrivals to the state as travellers will no longer have an option to pay low cost fares and travel in comfort.
“This has been a growing new segment of frugal tourists which is due to the gloomy economic conditions in the USA and Europe,” he said, adding that more than 90 per cent of Sabah’s tourist arrivals are by air and Firefly provides this comfort and reasonable price travelling structure which entices leisure and business travellers to visit the state.
Tan pointed out that if travelling by Firefly, foreign tourists have the luxury and convenience of connecting their flights from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) instead of the hassle of having to check in at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT).
“By December 2011, this option will cease. In addition, MATTA Sabah noted that 60 per cent of Sabah’s arrivals comprised domestic tourists,” he said, adding that since the commencement of Firefly service to Sabah on January 15 this year, domestic arrivals have recorded a steady increase of 1,304,981 from January to August compared to 1,077,830 arrivals for the same corresponding period last year.
Among the contributing factors are the flight frequencies of six flights daily to and from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu and the option available for Malaysians to pay affordable cost air tickets and yet experience the comfort of travelling and enjoying the international standard airport facilities and aerobridge facilities.
With the Firefly pullout, surely domestic tourism will be affected and holiday makers will consider neighbouring countries instead of Sabah, he lamented.
Tan was of the opinion that the alliance of MAS and AirAsia through a share swap deal to end their long rivalry and boost their profits is expected to increase cost of air fares between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, leaving consumers with little choice.
“We have yet to see how the Competition Act which will take effect on January 1, 2012 will protect consumers from monopolistic practices by MAS and AirAsia.
“MATTA Sabah urges Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman to intervene to ensure the continued growth of the tourism industry which is currently the third highest GDP contributor in foreign currency for Sabah.
“Perhaps it is time for the State Government to divest its shares from Khazanah which is a stakeholder of MAS as the interest of the state is no longer a priority by the new board of directors,” he stressed.