KOTA KINABALU (Apr 25): The on-going spat on high airfares to Sabah and Sarawak for the Hari Raya Aidilfitri festival between the current and previous Ministers of Transport not only highlights the high, expensive and unreasonable airfares for both sectors, said Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Seri Panglima Dr Jeffrey Kitingan.
“It also exposed the decades-old systemic problem of neglect of the interests and welfare of Sabahans and Sarawakians on air-travel and the burden borne by them for years. Air-travel should not be burdensome as it is the only viable option for the Borneons unlike their Malayan cousins who have the luxury of low-cost land routes to “balik kampung for Hari Raya” in the Malayan States,” stressed Jeffrey.
Instead of arguing that the airfare is not RM3,000 plus but only RM2,000 plus, he said the Transport Minister and the Federal Government should be putting up solutions to resolve the high costs of air-travel to Sabah and Sarawak. The costs especially during festive and peak holiday seasons is very much higher and airlines take advantage of heavier bookings.
Jeffrey added that the time has come for the establishment of a Borneon Civil Aviation Authority (BCAA) to regulate and look after the aviation industry in Sabah and Sarawak.
“I believe that the BCAA can look after better the interests of Sabah, Sarawak and Malaysians travelling to and fro the Borneon States”.
While the BCAA will be focused to regulate and look after the best interests of the aviation industry in the Borneo States. There have been reports of issues and delays in the handling of aviation matters in Sabah by the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM).
There are talented and qualified Sabahans including some educated, trained and certified in USA by American aviation institutions to staff the BCAA. Their localized focus will also look after the interests of the people including having better control over airfares.
With the better knowledge of the local circumstances and the understanding of the needs of Sabah and Sarawak, he said the BCAA can create the much needed impetus to alleviate the airline industry to achieve greater heights. In the longer term, the BCAA could benefit not only Sabah but the national aviation industry as a whole.
Air-travel is also very important especially to Sabah, as international tourism are key sectors of the Sabah and Sarawak economy. In fact, the Kota Kinabalu International Airport is the second biggest and second busiest airport in Malaysia and the regional hub for many airlines with direct international flights.
The timing to set up the BCAA is also spot-on now that Sarawak wishes to set up a boutique airline. At the same time, Sabah is in discussions to venture into the air-cargo sector with an established logistics group as well to turn Sabah Air Aviation into a regional airline for the BIMP-EAGA region.
“I will raise the issue at the next MA63 Federal Cabinet Committee meeting” concluded Jeffrey.