Tuesday, June 25

Start with chartered flights, Masidi tells Sabah Air


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Air can start with chartered flights or engage strategic partners prior to running a full-fledged airline due to the complexity involved.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun suggested that Sabah Air should begin with chartered flights as it was an easier alternative to get the feel on how to run an airline.

His second suggestion, that is to engage strategic partners, will allow the company to run the airline with people with expertise.

Masidi was commenting on Sabah Air chairman Datuk Yusoff Mohd Kasim’s recent announcement that Sabah Air was looking at serving regional routes such as to Korea, Japan and Australia.

“Although it is a good concept, the process is complicated, starting with buying or leasing an aircraft.

“Buying an aircraft is not easy because there are only a few manufacturers in the world – Airbus and Boeing, and the waiting period is five years,” he said in an interview after officiating at a book launch here yesterday.

In addition, he said most leased aircraft were used ones.

Masidi also cautioned Sabah Air that there were more airlines losing money than making a profit worldwide.

For instance, airlines who do make money include Singapore Airlines while those expanding at a very fast rate are Middle Eastern companies such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, and Etihad Airways, he said.

The minister meanwhile welcomed Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to have another discussion and find a better solution rather than cutting routes.

“I believe tentatively that they have read all the comments in the paper and they are disturbed with the reaction from Sabahans.

“I have a reason to believe they may now want to reopen another talk with us in Sabah which I’m more than welcome,” he said.

MAS recently announced the suspension of four direct flights from Osaka, Haneda, Seoul and Perth beginning early this year.

On travel agents’ reluctance to sell Sabah tour packages in Japan due to the suspension of the route by MAS, Masidi said the previously five hours’ journey from Japan to Kota Kinabalu had increased to 12.5 hours inclusive of waiting due to MAS’s decision.

“To me, that is a good reason for MAS to rethink their current strategy,” Masidi said.

He pointed out that the Haneda route was a development route, meaning MAS was not expected to make a profit yet.

“I’m trying to impress on MAS, let’s work together and develop those routes. You may not make money now, but you will make money in the future.”

Masidi added that Sabahans with relatives and children studying in Perth were also unhappy about the suspension, while Koreans did not suffer significant impact as there are four Korean airlines serving the route to Sabah.