KUCHING: The state government acknowledged that the recent MAS-AirAsia share swap had affected the state’s tourism sector.
“The lack of public information on the future plan of this joint collaboration between MAS and AirAsia has created anxiety among industry players.
“Furthermore, Sarawak has experienced cancellations of flights and this has caused inconvenience to the public,” noted Tourism Assistant Minister Datuk Talib Zulpilip at the State Legislative Assembly yesterday.
He was responding to state DAP chairman Wong Ho Leng (DAP-Bukit Assek) who asked how the collaboration had affected Sarawak both positively and adversely.
On Firefly ceasing to operate its Kuala Lumpur-Kuching and Johor Bahru-Kuching routes from Oct 31, Talib also noted that the move had undoubtedly left behind a vacuum.
“To address the issue, the state government has written to the federal government to express concern and displeasure on the lack of communication and consultation. The abrupt cancellation of firefly services after the announcement of the swap and collaboration between the two airlines do not augur well for the state.
“The state government has also initiated dialogues and meeting sessions to seek opportunities for foreign airlines to operate in Sarawak. The state government through Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd has offered attractive incentives such as three years free landing and parking fees and marketing support,” he said.
Talib said the government, however, had no intention to establish its own airlines.
“We are looking at various options including the positioning of MASWings as a regional airline to service Sarawak, Sabah and BIMP-Eaga region,” he added.
Later at a press conference, Wong said he was disappointed that he did not get any answer to his supplementary question on MAS-AirAsia’s share swap that involved a Comprehensive Collateral Arrangement and for clarification on what the arrangement actually entailed.
He also said he was upset with the assistant minister for not knowing what the term ‘comprehensive collateral arrangement’ meant.
“He does not even know what Comprehensive Collateral Arrangement is. Barisan Nasional backbenchers and frontbenchers shouted at me not to use such jargon but I did not come up with the jargon. It is used by MAS and AirAsia.
“We want a fair deal for Sarawakians so that locals will not be penalised by monopolisation as a result of the arrangement. The tourism industry must not be further affected adversely,” he pointed out.
“With airfares increasing, flights reducing, we do not even know what is coming up in the airline industry.
“Yet the ministry cannot give more details as to how many more flights will be affected,” he lamented.
Meanwhile, state DAP secretary Chong Chieng Jen said before the collaboration was even proposed, there should be a study on its effect on Sarawak which relied very much on air travel.
“What are the detailed figures regarding flight reduction and increase in airfare?
“The results will form a ground for Sarawak people to fight for increased flights or reduction in fares.
“Even though the ministry claimed that MAS has not increased airfares for the past 15 years, all other things have increased such as fuel charges, administration charges and airport taxes,” he pointed out.