KUCHING: Indonesian low cost airline Xpress Air made its inaugural flight to Kuching International Airport (KIA) yesterday landing at 1.30pm.
Assistant Minister of Tourism Sarawak (Local Event and Products) Datuk Gramong Juna said Xpress Air would help improve the state’s connectivity by increasing travel options for both premium and budget travellers.
“This is good for the tourism industry for both Sarawak and Indonesia,” he told a press conference after welcoming Xpress Air passengers on the flight from Jogjakarta via Pointianak.
“Such flight availability will increase connectivity between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore via Kuching and then to various destinations in Indonesia.”
He said visitors to Sarawak last year increased by 7.2 per cent to 4.07 million tourist arrivals compared to 2011. Foreign arrivals also increased last year by 12.4 per cent to 2.6 million.
From January to June this year, total visitor arrivals from Indonesia to the state increased by 15.6 per cent compared to the first half of last year.
The Xpress Air flight from Pontianak to Kuching departs at 12pm while the Kuching to Pontianak flight takes off at 2pm every Friday and Sunday.
Currently the all-in promotional fare is RM168 from Kuching to Pontianak. Xpress Air president and director Henny Kurniawan said this international route is a big step for the airline and would not have been possible without the support of the Sarawak government.
“We realise that transportation plays an important role in strengthening bilateral relationships and not the flight itself but more towards emerging business, education, medical and also culture,” she said.
Xpress Air, she said, hoped the new route would bring both countries mutual benefits.
“At the same time we should open the doors for Kuching commuters to fly to Jakarta through Pontianak,” she added.
She revealed that the airline would soon introduce flights from Pontianak to Bandung and Padang.
Indonesian Ministry of Communication air connectivity director-general Hemi Pamurahardjo said Xpress Air is the third Indonesian budget airline to provide flight connectivity between Sarawak and Indonesia.
The other airlines, Kal Star Air and Octavia Air, have since ceased the service.
He added that flight connectivity is vital for the Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-Eaga).
Among those present were Indonesian consul-general in Kuching Djoko Harjanto, Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan and Malaysia Airports Sdn Bhd general manager Zainol Mohd Isa.